By DICK MORRIS
October 5, 2005 -- Environmentalism, long consigned
to the sidelines, is about to move onto center stage as the hottest button in
our politics. And politicians had better start adjusting to the
The increased saliency of the green issue stems
from three concurrent trends:
• The rising price of gasoline, oil and home
heating fuel makes it evident to every American — except for some who work for
the White House — that we have to get serious about alternatives to oil-based
fuels at home and in our cars.
• The global focus on terrorism and the resistance
of terrorist groups to our efforts at detection and suppression make it obvious
that the only viable long-term strategy for fighting terrorism is to stop buying
the oil that provides them with the money they need for their mayhem.
• Hurricanes like Katrina and Rita make it obvious
that the global climate is changing and lend credibility to those who call for
steps to reverse man-made warming trends. With 40 percent of Americans, in a
recent national poll, blaming hurricanes on global warming and Time magazine
featuring the linkage on its cover, the Kyoto issue is going to rise in
This coalition of consumers, patriots and greens is
the new political movement that will begin reshaping American politics. Voters
are not going to buy the standard Republican solutions to the environment and
energy problems of more exploration, drilling and production of oil and opening
up of offshore and Arctic lands to oil companies.
People realize that the key is to stem the
addiction by converting to alternative fuels rather than to temporize by seeking
new oil fields. And they get that even if we find more oil we will still find
ourselves slowly destroying our planet and rather quickly energizing hurricanes
and other weather catastrophes.
Bush is far, far behind on this issue and, with his
oil company background, seems incapable of responding to the new
environmentalism and the revised priorities it is bringing with it. Democrats
are scrambling to embrace global warming as an issue but are woefully short of
solutions. They revel in a recitation of the problem instead. Other than
California’s Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), nobody has staked out the need to
switch to hydrogen, wind, biofuels and solar energy as alternatives to oil
The issue of new energy sources and national
conversion is truly the fumbled football on the 50-yard line of our politics,
accessible to either party, depending on which has the wisdom, foresight and
audacity to recover the ball and score with it.
Al Gore, who has always led on this issue, may want
to reconsider his retirement now that America is finally ready to hear what he
has to say. Sen Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) should think about focusing on
environmental and energy issues rather than devoting her rhetoric to targets of
partisan opportunity that present themselves.
But mostly it is the president who has a capacity
to lead on this issue. Converting from oil is truly the issue that could
dominate his second term and give him an agenda with which to control events,
which he sadly seems to lack. All he needs to do is to pay attention to what is
happening around him to grasp the importance of a fundamental approach to
switching away from oil.
But if his response to rising gasoline prices is a
laissez-faire shrug and his attitude toward increased home heating oil charges
is a band-aid subsidy, he will miss a chance for leadership and abandon his best
shot to leave this nation a much better place than he found it.
It took a catastrophe to awaken Americans to the
energy/environment issue. But Sept. 11, the doubling of energy prices and the
storms in the Gulf of Mexico have catalyzed a focus that would have been
impossible in normal times. It is just up to the politicians of either party of
get the message and provide leadership.