Firedoglake blog takes an eco-view of the Presidential candidates

They don’t even bother with McCain — too horrible to contemplate, but there isn’t much with Barrick or Hillary either, although the author concludes that Hillary is better than the rest.

An Eco-View of the Dem Contenders. By Kirk Murphy. Firedoglake

Speaking personally, I spent a lot of time any money on past presidential campaigns, but this time I am hardly inspired. Obama’s messge of change, hope and unity is thrilling a lot of people, but because I’ve followed campaigns since 1964, a promise of renewal and change stated in such generic terms is hardly new.

And, after all, the President who made the most changes, although he give little hint of it during his campaign, was George W. Bush.

Part of the problem is, once again, the MSM concentrates on personality and tactics in it’s coverage, e.g. can McCain convince conservatives? Is Hillary too cold (or, alternatively, too emotional)? Does Barrick’s spouse remind us of Jackie Kennedy? The war, the economy, the environment, seem to have disappeared.





  1. timz Avatar

    “but this time I am hardly inspired” — for me this is an understatement. They all talk about change, but change to what. McCain has had 25 years in Congress to make changes, Clinton and Obama have also had time in the Senate to make “changes”. What we really need is an Interior Secretary who has a biology/science background, not some croony who is given the position for political payback.

  2. TPageCO Avatar

    This article is so poorly written, it’s hard to make sense of it sometimes. Still, this is a worthy topic for discussion and I’d like to see more good writers put some time into a well-researched piece. Ray Ring’s recent “speech” in High Country News is a decent beginning on energy issues in the Intermountain West.

    Yes, I didn’t think it was a very good article, but I think these issues need to be raised, especially now that the fields have narrowed. So when I saw it this morning, I linked to it. RM

    A couple points:

    1) Discussing energy conservation policy in the USA can lead to political death – see Jimmy Carter. Asking Americans to get out of their cars, live in smaller houses, or buy fewer consumer goods is simply not going to happen at the national level. It’s going to take a bottom-up movement to make it reality. People with the ability to pay, and the motivation to do something personal about energy conservation should be the ones buying houses in existing areas, installing solar electric/water systems, and developing a consistent program for buying food that comes with the least amount of energy/pollution costs. If anyone thinks the politicians around the world are going to do anything resembling leadership on this, go read the G8 statement on energy policy. It’s depressing.

    2) Beyond clean water and clean air, most people simply don’t care about resource issues. This may change as we see more effects from climate change, but I doubt it. Pols respond to issues brought up by voters – get more people aware of the threats posed by GMO’s, heavy metals, habitat destruction, etc., and those issues will start to be discussed. For all their hypocrisy (the big houses and the jetsetting) , Al Gore and Tom Friedman (from the big bad MSM) have helped bring climate change into the political discussion, but I’d bet that Gore would not have been so vocal about it if he had been President at the time.

    You are right that it is dangerous to discuss some of these things, but they can find some safe general things to say; and so there is no need to endorse the 1872 mining law because that is very specific.
    – – – – – – –
    The Sierra Club had a lot to say about candidate McCain’s actions the last couple days.

    I cried some green tears in December when a package that would have provided billions in incentives for clean energy died in a heartbreakingly close 59-40 vote. While recessions are not exciting in any way, it was pretty exciting when a similar — if much smaller — package of clean energy incentives was on tap to be added to be added to the Senate’s version of the economic stimulus package. This package would have provided stop-gap extensions of clean energy incentives due to expire at the end of this year.

    (See another piece your correspondent wrote wrote about why including these incentives in the stimulus plan is both good policy and smart politics.)

    Hold on a second you say — some quick cipherin’ reveals that the total number of votes in December’s heartbreaking loss was only 99. But there’s 100 senators you say. Precisely! And when it came time to vote on clean energy and it lost by a single vote, one Senator didn’t show up to vote. That Senator was John McCain.

    But then in January, McCain said “Of course we want renewable energy. Of course we want better standards. I want to do everything I can to see that wind, solar, hydrogen, ethanol … and all of these, including nuclear power, [are put to better use].”

    Confused? Me too. It seems “everything” does not include showing up to vote.

    So back to the economic stimulus package. Just this Wednesday the Senate was voting to expand the House version to include the clean energy incentives and other goodies. Clean energy lost again — and again by a single vote: 59-40. And again there was one Senator who didn’t show up to vote, even though he was in Washington, and even though two Senators traveling on the same plane managed to make the vote: John McCain.

    When 99 other Senators showed up to vote and clean energy lost by a single vote, where was John McCain? . . . . Ralph Maughan

  3. be Avatar

    the two party system is corrupt to the core … systemically inept … it’s better to be outside leveraging either into line with the threat of uttering meaningful policy and/or reforming/critiquing exclusive measures of power-holding…

    i hope there’s a candidate i can be proud to punch my ballot for ~ one that’s not dissuaded by a particular club’s propensity to make it about anything but the meaningful issues and policy. a club that hates its base more than it seeks to beat the other club.

  4. TPageCO Avatar

    That is certainly disappointing to read about the clean energy vote. Still, I think that action will happen on this front. I’m much more skeptical about the conservation part of the equation, and the likelihood (certainty?) that we will remove every drop of fossil fuel from the earth before we start to change things. Until we Americans start to do the things I noted earlier, it’s going to be difficult to tell 1 billion Chinese that they can’t drive cars because of carbon pollution. If that doesn’t happen, all the alternative energy programs we can dream up will be like spitting in the wind.

    As for the 1872 Mining Laws, I suspect that if asked unprepared, none of the candidates could tell you what they are about, and they probably wouldn’t care to know. Along these same lines, issues such as grazing, sprawl, habitat fragmentation, drought and exotic species are equally unimportant as far as winning the White House. With respect to these kinds of things that affect Westerners far more than the rest of the country…all politics is definitely local.

  5. kirk murphy Avatar
    kirk murphy

    Ralph, I’m glad the article served your purposes on your blog.

    Thanks for your good work on behalf of the wolves.

    When you find articles comparing the two candidates that are up to your standards, please feel free to send me a link – I clearly have much to learn.

    Be well

    Kirk Murphy

  6. kt Avatar

    I actually liked the Kirk Murphy Blog Post. There are a LOT of Links in the Post, and it covers a lot of ground. AND he includes a link to the Buffalo Field Campaign … !!!!

    After hearing Barack Obama speak in Boise, I came away feeling he could care less about the environment. I was not smitten with his environmental concern or passion.

    Regarding the 1872 Mining Law – I would certainly bet that Hillary
    Clinton knows a bit about it. Here is one source that tells the story – there are others:

    A while back, the Dems were up in arms over Poppy Bush giving foreign-owned Barrick gold in Nevada a sweetheart deal not just on cyanide heal leach gold mining our public lands, but also on a land deal. Barrick Gold also holds a very large public lands grazing permit, where they get to graze cows across hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands for virtually free.

    The Dems outrage over Bush giving away public lands to Barrick was before the ascendancy of that spineless mine monger Harry Reid to be just about the most worthless “leader” the Dems in the Senate could ever have come up with …


  7. kt Avatar

    Comment I believe #85 in the FDL Post is the writer, Kirk Murphy responding to commentors. It includes the following response, which are my sentiments EXACTLY:

    Moreover, no one wins environmental protection by offering “compromise” as their starting position. On old growth forest, we’ve “compromised” away more than 97% of the (continental) US old growth already. Obama’s diffuse message of hope doesn’t hide the fact that compromise is collaboration on ESA, biodiversity, and habitat.

    On these issues, fighting from the start ensures the biggest possible win when one finally sits down to negotiate. I believe Obama’s “kumbaya” tactics will only accelerate devastation in all three areas.”

    YEP! My sentiments EXACTLY. The LAST thing we need is more collaboration to sell out and give ranchers, miners, loggers more than they have already taken from us over the past 7 PLUS years.

  8. TPageCO Avatar


    After looking at the link you suggest, I guess I just don’t see a connection between that story and HC’s hypothetical interest in the 1872 Mining Laws during her push to win the White House.
    In any event, my point is that just about every resource issue that is discussed here or at the local bar is irrelevant to national politicians. There are exceptional instances of course: Carter’s support for ANILCA in October 1980, Clinton’s use of the Antiquities Act late in his presidency, the Roadless Rule (also late in his term). There are a few other examples, but the day-to-day meatgrinder that is resource management in the western US doesn’t resonate with national voters, and it likely never will until electoral votes in the region outweigh those in places like Florida, Ohio and New York. Only those politicians sitting on the key Congressional resource committees are paying attention at all.
    Complaining that national pols need to do more on issues such as grazing reform (for one example) is a waste of breath. Going and raising money to buy the property holding the grazing rights and retiring them yourself or managing them properly is a lot more effective.

  9. Brian Ertz Avatar

    there’s more than one way to … well … ‘complaining’ and raising awareness are never a bad thing … making clear to national pols that sliding on habitat conservation, ESA, etc. is going to be controversial and ignite ‘complaint’ is good – especially with a party as averse to controversy as is the case now.

    apparently, what resonates with voters is hollow “hope” and nebulous “change” — fine, but let the critical concern about that fact ring ~ even add to it when one can. that breath is never wasted.

    but i think that TPageCO is right ~ the national contenders don’t care about real issues enough to risk losing votes on the controversy of them. it’s safer to keep it vague and to say nothing. the antidote ~ i think that people who care about the actual issues need a place to put their vote – to leverage it — so that the sting of generality is felt among candidates, not just constituents, and the 2 choices are forced to confront substance — to earn their votes …

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    On matters such as grazing reform, the margin of control of Congress and a President who does not seriously oppose it are critical.

    The Democrats need at least 60 senators (to overcome the filibuster in the US Senate) and a President who is either indifferent to grazing reform or in favor. Grazing reform doesn’t have to be a presidential campaign issue.

    Absent Bush, and a big Democratic majority, grazing reform should come. The Democrats are certain to gain seats in 2008, but will they gain enough?

  11. JB Avatar

    kt says: “In any event, my point is that just about every resource issue that is discussed here or at the local bar is irrelevant to national politicians.”

    I agree. Most of the decisions that affect natural resource management will be made by Congress (Committee on Engergy & NR) or political appointees (e.g. Secretary of Interior, Agriculture). What we need is a democrat in the White House making those appointments–we can’t afford any more Nortons or Kempthornes at the helm.

    Although I disagree that collaboration is always a bad place to start (have fun Brian), if you don’t like collaboration I don’t think Clinton will be much better–at least if she is at all like her husband. Recall that it was Bill Clinton’s administration that called for collaboration on the northern spotted owl, and Bill Clinton’s administration that decided to reinterpret the ESA (in 1997) to limit species listings. I have very little faith in the Clinton “Machine.”

  12. kt Avatar

    JB – And collaboration was a total flop in the spotted owl situation. Lawsuits are the reason there are any owls left!

    We know that collaboration does not work to “save” things – look at that prime example: the Quincy Library Group – that was all about logging, logging, logging – just a touchier-feelier spin.

  13. JB Avatar

    kt: I don’t have the time to get drawn into this debate again. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I was pointing out that if you’re going to dismiss Obama because of his stance on collaboration, you might want to think about dismissing Clinton as well.

  14. kt Avatar

    That is the point exactly. Some may have learned that collaboration especially on public land issues is a failure.

    Collaboration on western “resource” issues means the land and wildilfe lose, and industry gains a whole lot. Example: Ranchers whose cattle greatly abuse public lands sucker in enviros and run off with the store – just look that the Owyhee Initiative – and the cut-rate rancher motorized and well-roaded “wilderness” and public land sales or swaps that process came up with.

  15. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    I think that the people a president surrounds themselves with are almost more important than the president him/herself. If Obama/Clinton are indifferent to the environment hopefully they will at least appoint competent people to his/her cabinet who will make informed decisions concerning all of these environmental matters. Ralph, how would you rate the candidates on public lands/ endangered species issues? I am having trouble finding any info about them other than climate/global warming views. Hopefully we can assume that Hillary will do as much environmental good as her husband should she get elected.

  16. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Nearly missed this post :-)) Here in Germany, we´ve got a fairly good media coverage because presidential campains are always an impressive spectacle to watch, but especially this time, with so many charismatic candidates. I always wondered what their opinion on environmental issues would be but not much is leaking through here besides a few luke warm statments about global warming and Kyoto protocol – the really global things. But to be honest, you would not really expect a statement on “public lands” or even worse on “endangered species” in the frame of a campaign. But you definitely would expect a clear stament on e.g. public health insurance issues. My favourite political mag does a coverage on Obama this week, but again – not much programatic input. From the comments here it seems, you a not wiser on this than we are. For us abroad another thrilling thing is: Are the USA already prepared for a female president? Are the USA ready for an afro-american president?

  17. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    In the 2004 campaign George W. Bush actually did made statements ridiculing endangered species, and he even reached down to publicly oppose the removal of 4 salmon-killing navigation dams on the lower Snake River in Washington state.

    The people the President chooses to surround himself are critical. George W. Bush seemed to deliberately fall into what presidential scholars and commentators have long regarded as a trap to avoid — to surround yourself with advisers who completely agree with you. This almost guarantees that no one will personally tell you that your information is wrong, or that you missed important alternatives. It made a policy blunder such as attacking Iraq almost inevitable.

    At the end of the Johnson Administration way back in the late 1960s, his last press secretary, George Reedy, wrote “The Twilight of the Presidency.” In that book Reedy argued that no one dared contradict President Johnson because of his unpleasant reaction to bad news. This was coupled with the fact that he could not go anywhere without facing a Vietnam protest demonstration. So he stayed in the White House, brooding and making mistakes.

    Johnson’s situation, however, was in part the result of events. Bush has no such excuse. He continues make mistatements and blatantly try to scare people about terrorists, with little contradiction from the media. Any citizen who gets close enough to heckle him is arrested.

    If it wasn’t for citizen initiatives such as bloggers, I think American democracy would have totally crumbled. Even now, everything anyone does on the Internet is swept up and recorded by the NSA.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan