Republican Presidential candidate John McCain has enjoyed a positive reputation among environmentalists over the years.
Hes won endorsements in his senate races in Arizona from environmental groups and is generally viewed as among the greener members of the Senate and his party by the mainstream media.
Some of this reputation is deserved, as Kate Sheppard wrote recently on The American Prospects Tapped blog, in a post critical of McCain.
Dont get me wrong, he has taken the Bush administration and the rest of the GOP establishment to task for subverting action on climate change, and he does have the better record and rhetoric on the subject than the rest of the Republican field, she wrote.
But that doesnt make him an environmentalist, Sheppard says.
In addition to his lifetime score of 26% on major environmental votes, she wrote, hes voted against a renewable portfolio standard for electricity and has altered his stance on ethanol during the Republican primaries.
Most importantly, however, his approach on what has been his most significant claim to being green is years behind the times.
The 2007 version of his Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act is weaker than most others that have been offered up, calling for a cap at 2004 levels by 2012 and gradual reductions to 30% of 2004 levels by 2050, Sheppard writes. Current science tells us we need 80% reductions by 2050 to avert catastrophic warming, putting McCains plan way behind the times.
Others have been just as critical of the senators record.
The League of Conservation Voters, which endorsed McCain in his 2004 Senate re-election bid, has given him a rating of 0 for 2007 after he missed all 15 votes included in its annual scorecard.
The presidential candidates scores all suffered from the occupational hazard of absenteeism, the League wrote in a press release accompanying the release of the scorecard. But Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both made a point of being on hand for the key vote that would have allowed a version of the energy bill to move forward that included a provision to repeal billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil and put that money toward clean energy programs.
McCain, on the other hand, failed to cast a single important environmental vote, including missing the key vote on repealing tax giveaways to big oila measure that failed by only one vote.
McCain also failed to answer a California League of Conservation Voters survey, which included a question on the states emissions plan. That plan is in limbo, with the state waiting for a waiver from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that not only would free California to put its emissions plan into action, but would free about a dozen other states to do so, as well. The Bush-run agency has so far refused to issue the waiver.
McCain endorsed the plan during the California Republican debate, but focused his argument on federalist grounds and not solely on its environmental impact. This plays into longstanding Republican dogma and allows him also to endorse environmental disasters like Louisianas right to drill off its coast.
So far, the mainstream media has been slow to move away from its portrayal of McCain as a maverick Republican willing to break with Republican orthodoxy, which could effectively neutralize the environment as an issue in November.
This raises a larger question of narrative and the roles in which the press cast candidates. It is not the medias responsibility to pigeonhole those running, but to explode the myths the candidates use to sell themselves, to force them to do more than use vague words like maverick, change and experience.
John McCain may indeed be a maverick, but within what context? And does that make him an environmentalist? I know how Id answer these questions.
Hank Kalet is a poet and managing editor of the South Brunswick Post and The Cranbury Press in New Jersey. Email firstname.lastname@example.org./ His blog, Channel Surfing, can be found at www.kaletblog.com.
From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2008
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