|The Last Green Mile
December 8, 2000
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
With the odds increasing every day that George W. Bush will be
declared the 43rd president, a couple of things are becoming clear:
Bush voters are the likely winners. Gore voters are the likely
losers. And all those people who voted for Ralph Nader and the
Green Party are the likely really big losers.
Why? Just do the math. Assuming a very narrow victory for Mr.
Bush, and a 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate, it's highly doubtful
that on the big policy issues tax cuts, Social Security,
education, foreign policy a Bush administration will be able to
do much more, or much less, than a Gore administration.
Where Mr. Bush will have the biggest impact is not through the
macro-politics, but through the micro-politics on all those
issues that reside just below the radar, on all those issues where
the hundreds of assistant secretaries, agency heads and department
chiefs, whom the Bush team will appoint throughout the government,
will have the discretion, guidance and desire to impose a
And what are those issues? Well, let's see things like how
environmental regulations are interpreted, where oil wells can be
dug in Alaska, what sorts of lands the Interior Department sets
aside for conservation, how worker health and safety rules are
enforced or expanded, how labor laws are interpreted, how gun
control is dealt with, how aggressively fuel efficiency standards
are pursued, how assiduously global population control programs are
supported and to what extent the U.S. works to curb the
"greenhouse" gases that are causing global warming.
There is actually another name for all these environmental, social
and labor issues: "The Nader Agenda." These are all the issues that
Ralph Nader and his supporters professed to care most about. Well,
guess what? All their issues are going to get the short end of the
stick from a Bush-staffed bureaucracy, which will be heavily
influenced by the oil and gas industry, the National Rifle
Association and the anti-abortion lobby.
Just think about one area global warming. Instead of having as
president Al Gore, someone who would have made it a priority to
rescue the failed Kyoto climate change treaty, we will probably
have a president and vice president both of whom came from the
energy business and don't even believe global warming is for real.
Mr. Bush's chief of staff will be Andrew Card, who spent the last
seven years as chief lobbyist for the auto industry, fighting
tighter fuel economy, air pollution and global warming regulations.
So Mr. Nader helped deliver a president from the oil industry, a
vice president from the drilling industry and a chief of staff from
the auto industry. Have a nice day.
Indeed, when we wake up 20 years from now and find that the
Atlantic Ocean is just outside Washington, D.C., because the polar
icecaps are melting, we may look back at this pivotal election. We
may wonder whether it wasn't the last moment when a U.S. policy to
deal with global warming might have made a difference, and we may
ask why the party most concerned about that, the Greens, helped to
elect Mr. Bush by casting 97,000 Nader votes in Florida.
Nader's voters forgot what Nader's Raiders always remembered:
Government is not just about the big bills and legislation. It's
also about lots of little things, decided by lots of little
bureaucrats whom each party brings to Washington when it takes
Throughout the campaign, the egomaniacal Mr. Nader who makes
Ross Perot look selfless by comparison justified taking away
votes from Mr. Gore by arguing that there really wasn't much
difference between him and Mr. Bush. And, like a good Leninist, Mr.
Nader also didn't seem to mind destroying the Democratic Party to
save it. Well, maybe there didn't appear to be much difference
between the two men but there was a huge difference between the
hundreds of key people Al Gore and George Bush would appoint to
staff their administrations. And those hundreds of people will make
thousands of decisions that one day will add up to a very big
If you need any proof of that, look at Florida. Look at how many
key decisions were taken by "little people" who resided below the
radar screens local judges, senior state officials and local
election supervisors. They are the gears of government, and in a
Bush administration they are the ones who will be interpreting and
regulating everything the Naderites care about. As I said, have a