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W whiffs even the easy ones

August 5, 2001 1:41 am

ARSENIC. STEM-CELL research. Abstinence. Global warming. Energy.

These are just a few of the issues that President Bush has faced in his young presidency. Several of them are no-brainers, which must be why the president is wrestling with them so.

Arsenic, for example, is a poison. Having it in drinking water is bad. The less the better. Arsenic's link to various cancers is clear, but still the administration pushed for a less-stringent standard until Congress voted the tougher one in place.

President Bush is not wrong to consider the financial cost of the measures that come across his desk in search of a decision. But too often his decision-making is based on cost--and ideology--rather than what is right and good for America and the world.

Energy and global warming are international issues on which the world turns to the United States for leadership
and sound judgment.

The Bush administration is providing neither.

By refusing to participate in the Kyoto climate treaty, a milestone in global cooperation, the United States is saying that saving the world is too expensive. So even though this nation contributes 25 percent of the world's carbon dioxide, it is unwilling to contribute to a solution.

Bush has said he will offer his own plan, which will probably involve big, big fans to blow that bad pollution right through the ozone hole and out into space.

A sound environmental program begins with a sound energy policy. The administration's plan is simply that more energy is better, no matter what the cost of providing it. Bush wants to drill in Alaska, drill in the Gulf of Mexico, drill on federal land (after the land is cleared of timber, of course). He'd drill on the moon if one of his Texas oil cronies told him it would be cost-effective.

Bush's energy solution is as simple and as wrong as it can be: Get more oil.

Americans consume a lot of energy. Energy consumption has become taken for granted as basic to Americans' quality of life.

But it is Americans' responsibility to manage energy resources carefully and to pursue conservation and alternative sources at every opportunity. This is the message we need to send to the world, not that we should stick a giant straw into the ground and suck out all the oil.

Social and scientific issues that involve sex, conception, and human embryos also have proved incredibly difficult for the Bush administration. In many cases he seems to agonize over his decisions, which suggests that he's at least aware that there are differing views that merit consideration.

We know for sure that the president has fallen victim to the faulty reasoning that young people won't have sex if they're told not to. And that if they keep having sex after being told not to, then the solution is to tell them not to some more.

This is a flawed policy.

Instead, young people should have easy access to condoms to help prevent conception and the spread of disease at the same time.

Providing access to condoms
7is not an invitation to have sex. Invitations to have sex are called hormones.

Meanwhile, the administration is trying to undo progress on family planning wherever it can, by banning abortion counseling at U.S.-funded clinics overseas, for example, and proposing to end contraceptive coverage for federal employees.

An enlightened society understands the need to control its population. If a couple wants a big family, wonderful. But denying availability to contraceptives to those responsible enough to want them is short-sighted and puts ideology ahead of reason.

The same thinking is giving the president a headache as
he decides whether to allow federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

Sources for stem cells include surplus embryos created for in-vitro fertilization and those from aborted fetal tissues.

The policy established by Presi-dent Clinton allowed federal funding only on research that used surplus in-vitro embryos. Bush could even prevent that research if he deems the ideological concerns more important than the potential value of the research for individuals suffering from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or
diabetes.

It seems that the research has support from unexpected conservative quarters--those who have seen loved ones ravaged by those diseases. Is it unethical to work to prevent human suffering?

These issues are not as difficult to decide as President Bush seems to make them. Perhaps a visit to the Wizard would help. It worked wonders for the scarecrow.





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