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The Sciences

What a Falling Off Was There....

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJanuary 21, 2006 1:52 AM

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Bill Ruckelshaus. Russell Train. Lee Thomas. Bill Reilly. Christie Todd Whitman. What do these names all have in common? Answer: All are former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency. All take human-caused global warming seriously. And all are Republicans--moderate Republicans, of a very different breed from the ones who are (generally) running our government today.

The GOP has a proud environmental tradition, of that there can be no doubt. Just think of Teddy Roosevelt. The tradition lives on, albeit in a kind of exile, in these five Republican former EPA heads--none of whom, I suspect, would humor the kind of thinking now prevalent on the political right, according to which huge swaths of environmental science research are deemed to be politicized "junk science" and therefore dismissed out of hand.

Alas, the Republican party has changed, since at least the time of Reagan (although there have been some political oscillations since then). The GOP has become a party dominated by the modern conservative movement. And these moderates, while still willing to call themselves Republicans, have been increasingly marginalized--the saga of Christie Todd Whitman's conflicts with the Bush administration being only the most prominent example.

I just don't know whether there's any serious prospect of the moderates retaking the reins of their party. I have to say, I'm pretty skeptical that it can happen, though I'd like to hear the thoughts of others on the matter. But I am at least glad that the moderates are willing to speak out occasionally.

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