LETTERMAN GRILLING of
by Michael Hammerschlag
Last October, replayed Jan 16th, George Bush spent an entire hour on David Letterman, an event sadly missed by the bulk of press and voters. Initially the whole thing was quite deferential; from an audience seemingly packed with Bush partisans; to a monologue broadside at Al Gore. Dave was friendly and Bush was personable enough, cracking self-depreciating jokes, and getting big applause with his threats on the USS Cole terrorists. But after pleasantries Dave relentless bored in, like a hungry caterpillar, searching for some core of beliefs or ideas or character. Essentially he didn’t find any; Bush was sublimely blithe, a man comfortable in his lack of intellectual depth or reflection. He was unapologetic about the “as-----” comment; couldn’t quite get what Dave was getting at in capital punishment, “Are there any circumstances that would make you doubt it (whether execution was deserved)?”…“If, say, the person was innocent!!” Dave prompted finally. Bush claimed his anti-missile defense plan would “keep the peace” in the Middle East, was totally resistant to possibility of global warming, and heedless about danger of drilling in the Arctic Nat. Refuge (“that was a joke, right- you don’t really want to do that,” Dave prodded). At the end Letterman was obviously stunned at Bush's vacuity, "Well, I want to wish you good luck; (but I won't be voting for you!)", was clearly unspoken.
Of interest, considering the Ca. power crisis, were Bush’s remarks about oil and energy. This is some of the Letterman transcript: a realaudio version is on my article website: http://mikehammer.tripod.com in audio section. Words in square brackets are my comments and corrections.
BUSH: “There are some practical things we can do. I think we need to develop an anti-ballistic missile system to help
keep the peace in the Middle East, for example.”
LETTERMAN: “And that would work?”
BUSH: “Yeah, I think it will work. Otherwise I’m not going to deploy it.” [This should be the test we should hold Bush
to- whether a missile shield over America will stop the Arabs and Israeli’s from killing each other.]
LETTERMAN: “I heard something a couple of weeks ago coming out of your campaign. And I just thought this is not
true- he’s not really gonna do that- talking about wilderness lands up in Alaska or the Arctic Circle. You're going to take trucks up there and drill for oil and I said, ‘Oh that's a JOKE, he’s not going to do that!’.”
BUSH: “Yeah, well, then you're not going to have natural gas if we don't do it.
And guess what- the irony about all this is - …the administration’s opened up what’s called the National Petroleum Reserve, which is in that part of the world- they’re already exploring up there, and it's necessary, and I believe we can do so in an environmentally friendly way. I do and we need to. Either that or we’re going to be dependent on foreign sources of oil.”
LETTERMAN: “Do you believe the planet needs saving?”
BUSH: “I do. I think we can do much better job with the environment, and we're making great progress… on the other hand I
don't want the people who work for a livin- every day people- have their energy bills [rise] out of sight, when I know we can move natural gas, which by the way burns cleanly, from Alaska, through pipelines that can be constructed with the environment in mind. We got gas up there!”
LETTERMAN: “Burn it down in Texas: don't you have bad air pollution down in Texas?
BUSH: “Actually it's getting better--
LETTERMAN: “Getting better but, getting better by how-- ”
BUSH: “Well, we got a lot of CARS.” (audience laughs) We got a lot a automobiles.
LETTERMAN: “Ooo, woo,… is it the worst city in the country for air pollution?”
BUSH: “We’re best at reducing toxic pollution. We've reduced our industrial pollution---”
LETTERMAN: But if you're the worst and you reduced it by this much....”
BUSH: “I'm not so sure we’re the worst, maybe--”
LETTERMAN: “But it's a problem- isn't it a problem?”
BUSH: “Well it's a big city.”
LETTERMAN: “Well, weay, Not as big as New York, not as big as Los Angeles.”
Bush: “Los Angeles might be, I wouldn't necessarily be comparing Los Angeles to Houston- nevertheless we're making progress.”
LETTERMAN: “But listen to me, governor... instead of sending these guys up looking for natural gas in Alaska or wherever the hell you're going to do it… why can't we take some of that money and look for alternative means of energy?”
BUSH: “You mean you want to plug in your electricity [car].”
LETTERMAN: “Well we got to start somewhere...”
BUSH: “I think we ought to be looking about it, but I’m a practical guy. I think we can develop alternative uses [sources] of energy, as a matter of fact in Texas in the electric dereg bill I signed, we're going to have more alternative uses [sources] of energy than any other state. But Dave, it's going to be hard to drive your electric car from where you live to New York. [Dave lives 30 miles from NYC, easily done by electric cars that have a 70-100 mile range] They don't have the technology necessary. I’m a person who deals with the problem at hand, (which) is the Arabs have us over the [a] barrel, so speak – we’re importing 57% of our crude oil -we don't have enough refining capacity [in 1999 51% our net oil was imported, only 12% came from the Persian Gulf]. People are going to start paying high bills and I'm worried about it. I'm worried about what it will do for [to] the economy.”
LETTERMAN: “Well, I'm not smart enough to counter any of these things. But sooner or later we're going to have to make a significant change. Not just lip service, not just an item on a campaign—
BUSH: “I agree. There's no question we can do that. But the technology is not available now to store--
LETTERMAN: The polar ice cap is melting -that's all I know-eleven degrees warmer than it was 50 years ago.
Applause. Break for commercial.
Functional electric cars exist now (EV1)- fuel cell and other battery technologies have taken giant strides in the last few years. If Al Gore had become President, he likely would have provided big incentives for their widespread introduction. Likewise, large scale geothermal, ocean thermal conversion, and fuel cell plants are now feasible that have little or no pollution and CO2. And frankly, we never should have shut down nuclear power plants, which despite their problems, are probably the least environmentally damaging of current plants. But with an administration born out of the ooze of the oil fields, none of these innovative alternatives will have a chance.
Bush’s obsession with an Alaska gas pipeline and his concern for the high bills of consumers are ironic, considering his failure to lift a finger to help California (just by requiring other states to sell to Ca. at a fair price). Due to that, his largest contributor and personal pal Enron Corp, who maintains the largest gas pipeline and energy (electricity) resale system, stands to make billions from up to 30-fold price increases, while the public will suffer. Meanwhile, California will be locked into long-term high priced contracts negotiated in desperation, the 6th largest economy in the world will be knocked off stride, and disruptions that could have been nipped in the bud will spread throughout the West and maybe country. Of course, by Bush’s thinking, Ca. deserves it for voting heavily for Gore (though it was Wilson’s deregulation, consumer price caps, and likely price-gouging that lead to crisis).
And the continued crisis will make it easier to open up the Arctic Nat. Wildlife Refuge and other public lands to oil drilling. Ignoring and isolating California, however, is likely to backfire, even Republicans in the state (some of whom aren’t in the pocket of big business) will be bitter and resentful at Bush’s crass and brutal power play. And if the recession that Bush seems to be provoking as justification for his reckless tax cut comes to pass, the dead hand of guilt and blame may come to rest resolutely on Bush’s shoulder, and point towards his cynical and corrupt inaction in California.
Copyright © 2001 Michael Hammerschlag
Michael Hammerschlag has written commentaries for Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Honolulu Advertiser; Moscow News, Tribune, and + Guardian; and broke stories on Global Warming, TV Networks election night mistakes and Duval different sample ballot. http://mikehammer.tripod.com e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org