The Democrats’ History Mystery: Candidates’ Environmental, Diplomacy Rhetoric is Knowingly False

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The front pages blare, margin-to-margin, “Europe-U.S. Rift Widens,” bemoaning <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />U.S. unilateralism. “Chirac Remarks Provoke Pessimist U.S. Senators.” One inside page juxtaposes “German Scolds U.S.” and “Chirac says what others mumble.” The complaint? U.S. refusal to accept the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. The dateline? The Hague, November 2000, during the Clinton administration. The U.S. “rejected” Kyoto, as the EU sought to redefine it, during negotiations coinciding with the Florida recount. The party that walked away from the agreed upon deal, after seeking to muscle desperate Gore acolytes into ridiculous concessions? The EU.

It’s true. Look it up. Particularly enjoy the visibly saddened, saddened Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) working the phones to avert the EU tanking a struck deal, prominent in the November 22 Earth Times. Greens, too, blamed the EU. The Brits deflected responsibility to the French. The lead U.S. negotiator, Undersecretary of State Frank Loy, confirms this turn of events on the November 26 New York Times front page. Things never recovered (thank heaven).

That, as they say, is history. Regardless, one might easier locate an American teen completing a sentence without saying “like” than a cognoscente analyzing U.S.-European relations without citing the Kyoto blood on George W. Bush’s hands. How the general understanding became so distorted is a study in itself. Ultimately, however, this is typically the product of laziness. In the case of Kerry, it is particularly sleazy politics.

He and fellow Democratic nomination contender Joe Lieberman (Conn.) offer every indication that they will run in large part on Bush’s supposed “unilateralist” decision to “abandon” or “withdraw from” Kyoto and the “Kyoto process”. Seizing on early administration expressions of disdain for the treaty—and nothing more—both have given major addresses to this effect, promising that they will reengage and repair that which Bush hath torn asunder. Both knowingly speak falsehoods, increasingly brazen over time. In fact, Lieberman and Kerry are merely taking advantage of a myth the administration advanced to appease its base.

This begins to explain the administration making no effort to correct the record. Instead, they lay a fog of tepid statements about commitment to the issue and working with our allies. Regardless, as a matter of law, action and treaty status, the Bush Kyoto policy is indistinguishable from the Clinton-Gore policy. Though at first hard for many to swallow—I’ve seen this revelation send a staunchly anti-Kyoto Senator unsteadily to his seat, quietly blanching—this is indisputable.

The United States, which signed Kyoto on November 12, 1998, has never transmitted a renunciation or any formal communication to the United Nations or other signatories stating that, “the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature [and] requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary's status lists relating to this treaty”. That is the language used when the Bush administration did in fact “reject”, abandon,” or “withdraw from” the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Full U.S. delegations continue to participate in the Conference of the Parties (COP) negotiations, including under Bush in Bonn, Marrakech, New Delhi, and the upcoming Milan COP-9. That they affect a diplomatic Poor Man’s Shuffle out of respect for Bush’s rhetoric and perpetual EU anger is meaningless. The U.S. is a full-fledged party to the talks because we ratified the parent treaty that Kyoto seeks to amend, Bush Sr.’s “Rio” Framework Convention.

There is no “Kyoto Process”. These COPs and proposed amendments constitute “the Rio Process,” COP-3’s Kyoto Treaty being the first of what its proponents insist must be thirty equivalent turns of the energy suppression screws.

This administration, like its predecessor, refuses to transmit Kyoto to the Senate for ratification—or termination—choosing instead to leave the task to the next guy, while merely sopping to their base: “Boy we like it,” or, Boy we sure don’t.” President Bush replicates Clinton’s effort to simply dance past committing one way or the other regarding the hot-button but incredibly damaging agreement: Clinton’s Energy Information Agency estimated Kyoto’s annual cost to the U.S. at up to $400 billion (compare this to Gephardt’s $264 billion health care plan, of which Lieberman has stated “we can't afford” such “big spending Democratic ideas of the past”).

Bush’s expressed disdain, however, makes no difference. Lieberman and Kerry knowingly tilt at a myth, and administration types let them.

These candidates, who are seeking to take advantage of Republican fecklessness on environmental issues, must be forced to confront their disingenuous claims (disregarding for now the administration having enabled this with its own rhetorical ploy). All senators running for the nomination also voted, as the Kyoto conference loomed, for the unanimous, if non-binding (and ignored), “Byrd-Hagel” resolution against any treaty resembling what emerged. Bush’s appointees may be misplaying “global warming”, but in the final analysis, it is Kerry, Lieberman, et al. who have the Kyoto explaining to do.