The Guardian (UK)
March 4, 2003
Memo Exposes Bush's New Green Strategy
by Oliver Burkeman in Washington
The US Republican party is changing tactics on the environment,
avoiding "frightening" phrases such as global warming, after
a confidential party memo warned that it is the domestic issue on
which George Bush is most vulnerable.
The memo, by the leading Republican consultant Frank Luntz, concedes
the party has "lost the environmental communications battle"
and urges its politicians to encourage the public in the view that
there is no scientific consensus on the dangers of greenhouse
"The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet
closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the
science," Mr Luntz writes in the memo, obtained by the
Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based campaigning
"Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming
within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe
that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global
warming will change accordingly.
"Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific
certainty a primary issue in the debate."
The phrase "global warming" should be abandoned in favor of
"climate change", Mr Luntz says, and the party should
describe its policies as "conservationist" instead of
"environmentalist", because "most people" think
environmentalists are "extremists" who indulge in "some
pretty bizarre behavior.. that turns off many voters".
Words such as "common sense" should be used, with
pro-business arguments avoided wherever possible.
The environment, the memo says, "is probably the single issue on
which Republicans in general - and President Bush in particular - are
A Republican source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said party
strategists agreed with Mr Luntz's conclusion that "many
Americans believe Republicans do not care about the
The popular image is that they are "in the pockets of corporate
fat cats who rub their hands together and chuckle manically [sic] as
they plot to pollute America for fun and profit", Mr Luntz
The phrase "global warming" appeared frequently in President
Bush's speeches in 2001, but decreased to almost nothing during 2002,
when the memo was produced.
Environmentalists have accused the party and oil companies of helping
to promulgate the view that serious doubt remains about the effects of
Last week, a panel of experts appointed at the Bush administration's
request to analyze the president's climate change strategy found that
it lacked "vision, executable goals, clear timetables and
criteria for measuring progress".
"Rather than focusing on the things we don't know, it's almost as
if parts of the plan were written by people who are totally unfamiliar
with where ecosystems science is coming from," panel member
William Schlesinger told the Guardian.
Mr Luntz urges Republicans to "emphasize the importance of
'acting only with all the facts in hand'", in line with the White
House position that mandatory restrictions on emissions, as required
by the Kyoto protocol, should not be countenanced until further
research is undertaken.
The memo singles out as a major strategic failure the incoming Bush
administration's response to Bill Clinton's last-minute executive
order reducing the permitted level of arsenic in drinking water from
50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.
The new administration put the plan on hold, prompting "the
biggest public relations misfire of President Bush's first year in
office", Mr Luntz writes. The perception was that Mr Bush
"was actively putting in more arsenic in the water".
"A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be
more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth,"
Mr Luntz notes in the memo.