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Spin Control, White House Style

The Bush administration's Friday Follies are never any fun.

For most of America's overburdened workforce, Friday at five o'clock is a time to exhale -- but for journalists covering the Bush administration, Friday at five o'clock means trouble. More than fifty times over the last two years, the Bush administration has chosen the hour to break bad environmental news to the public. (Senator Patrick Leahy [D-VT] has even remarked that for the environment, "every Friday is Friday the 13th.") There is, of course, a reason for the strategy; it helps keep unpopular policy changes out of the press. Networks don't have time to pull together a story for the nightly news, and journalists have little time to call environmental experts -- NRDC, for example -- who can counter the White House spin. The pattern has become so predictable that environmentalists have taken to calling this White House tactic the "five o' clock follies." Below, a few examples of what the Bush administration was saying while you were heading home to enjoy your weekend.

Friday, January 10, 2003 Isolated wetlands such as desert springs, vernal pools, and seasonal streams contain up to 20 percent of America's water. But on this day the Bush administration argued that these important water sources for migratory birds aren't covered by the Clean Water Act -- even though they have been for thirty years. Instead, protecting them could become the job of states and local governments (many of which think it's just fine to let developers fill in the wetlands and get to building).

Friday, January 3, 2003 It's your right to have a say in how and how much federal land gets logged. It's your right to know how logging might affect fish and other animals. Or it has been your right. Today the Forest Service laid out a plan to exclude you from reviewing timber-cutting projects of less than 250 acres. And, no, you won't be able to challenge any government decisions to sell off these small tracts to timber companies. The proposed rules forbid appeals in court.

Friday, November 22, 2002 May as well rename Padre Island National Seashore in Texas the "Padre Island Private Gas Wells." The Bush administration announced the 69-mile-long island will get fresh wells courtesy of BNP Petroleum. To build them, tractor-trailers will drive up to forty trips a day along a 14-mile stretch of beach that is the main nesting ground for the world's most endangered sea turtle, the Kemp's ridley.

Friday, September 13, 2002 Talk about an unlucky day for the endangered desert tortoise. The Bureau of Land Management announced it wants to reduce the animal's protected habitat in California's Sonoran Desert by 150,000 acres -- a move that will open up the area to off-road vehicles.

Join our online Earth Action Center. Or write your senators and representative. Tell them that you won't stand for any more rollbacks. Use our congressional directory to find contact information.

The ugly truth
Ever wish you had a reference guide to all the environmental protections the Bush administration has undone? (We thought so.) Our report Rewriting the Rules lays out more than a hundred of them. Download the report or order a copy for $7.50 by calling (212) 727-4486.

Illustration: Caroline Wallace

OnEarth. Spring 2003
Copyright 2003 by the Natural Resources Defense Council