What Bush Got Right
Cheaper Gore-Tex, cleaner diesel, and five other things George W. Bush got right.
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As President Obama takes office, many are calling for him to aim a union-operated wrecking ball at every policy from the past eight years. Not so fast. We did some sleuthingand heard more than a few cries of “You’re looking for what?”″to come up with a list of Bushian ideas that actually worked.
1. A Big, Wet Park*
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a Montana-size patch of ocean encompassing most of the outlying Hawaiian Islands, is a massive conservation achievement. Starting in 2001, James Connaughton, the president’s chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, began researching the project. In April 2006, ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau came to the White House to wow the president
*On January 6, 2009 Bush said he would designate three new marine national monuments, an additional 195,280 square miles of protected zones.
2. More Rangers
Among the beneficiaries of Bush’s 2008 budget were the national parks, which got $208 million more than in 2007 for operationsan 11.8 percent increase. (Most years, it’s more like 3.5 percent.) Even better, because the cash is earmarked for operating costs, it’ll go to things like hiring and outfitting new rangers instead of building visitor centers and RV hookups. The parks still face daunting challenges, of course. A recent report by the National Parks Conservation Association cites development on park borders, air pollution, and other ills.
3. Longer Days
Included in the 2005 energy bill was the addition of an extra month of daylight saving time, starting in 2007. The measure saves roughly 1.3 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, or about half a percent of the country’s demand, according to the DOE. But don’t judge the effect just on the meter readings. Wait until March 9, when you squeeze in that first glorious, sunlit postwork run or ride of the year.
4. A Helping Hand in Africa
In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush surprised the world by asking Congress to commit $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has supported treatment for nearly two million people. Though the effort initially drew criticism for its required emphasis on abstinence-only education, that demand was softened when the plan was renewed with $48 billion in July. When asked about the genesis of the idea, Ambassador Mark Dybul, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator,”The impetus was the president….This comes from his heart.”
5. Light Hikers inEvery Closet
Bush was notably friendly to business, including the $289 billion-per-year outdoor industry. Specifically, the administration made import-tariff reductions for high-performance materials like breathable wading boots and Gore-Tex trail-running shoes.
6. Cleaner Trains, Tankers, and Tractors
Although the administration did little to increase automobile efficiency, Bush’s Clean Diesel Campaignexecutive regulations set out over the last eight yearswill reduce emissions from new heavy vehicles up to 90 percent by 2014. And in a rare act of recognition, the Natural Resources Defense Council acknowledges the deed. “Diesel pollution is the one extremely bright star in an otherwise dark night of the Bush environmental record,” says NRDC attorney Richard Kassel.
7. Open-Air Diplomacy
The Vacationer in Chief was regularly needled for setting a new record for days on retreat. But he also pulled world leaders out of cities, taking Vladimir Putin bass fishing in Maine and hosting Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Mexico’s President Vicente Fox in Crawford, Texas. With the precedent set, just think what Obama could accomplish by taking Kim Jong-Il bodysurfing in Oahu.