Bush’s Man at the E.P.A.

By all accounts, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt-President George W. Bush’s choice to be the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency-is a decent fellow. So why are several prominent Democrats voicing loud opposition to the nomination? They have good reason: Mr. Leavitt’s coziness with the mining, timber, oil and gas industries would likely make him unable to resist President Bush’s ongoing assault on America’s most precious heritage, the environment. Handing this President an industry-friendly E.P.A. administrator may only hasten the reckless abuse of the country’s natural resources.

Given President Bush’s record, the only credible nominee for the E.P.A. job might be someone who was not on the same page as the administration. Indeed, ideally the E.P.A. should be beyond partisan politics, rather than a parking lot for Presidential appointees. This is the preservation of our country we’re talking about. This is a President who chose to ignore a report by his administration’s own E.P.A., which concluded that between 2000 and 2020, U.S. emissions will increase 43 percent; a President who subsequently rewrote the Clean Air Act to allow power companies to increase emissions without having to install pollution controls. Other highlights of the President’s environmental stewardship include an attempt to weaken the standards for arsenic in U.S. drinking water; a move to pry open 13,000 acres of New York’s Finger Lakes National Forest to oil and gas drilling; and the refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty, which aims to reduce worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Unfortunately, Mr. Leavitt has adopted Mr. Bush’s strategy of labeling as “extremists” those who call for more stringent measures to protect the environment. His 10-plus years as governor of Utah have not been reassuring: The Sierra Club refers to his “anti-environmental record.” He met in secret with the Interior Department to end protections for millions of acres of open land, and he tried to build a highway across wetlands, a move which was stopped by the courts. Five Democratic Senators have said they will fight Mr. Leavitt’s nomination on the Senate floor: Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Hillary Clinton of New York. Nevertheless, Senate observers say the nomination is likely to pass.

President Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts can be repealed; his misguided and expensive war in Iraq will eventually wind down (though with the probable end result of creating a new army of anti-American terrorists). But the environment is not renewable; the damage Mr. Bush is doing will be permanent. A study by Yale and Columbia universities of the environmental health of 142 countries found that the U.S. ranked 51st, behind Cuba and Botswana. George W. Bush is on his way to leaving the country in far worse shape than he found it, with the bill to be paid by generations to come.

Joel Klein Fights For City Kids

According to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, we’re not going to see a huge improvement in New York’s classrooms until archaic union work rules are swept aside. Mr. Klein made this assertion just as the city is preparing for yet another round of talks with that obstacle to progress, the United Federation of Teachers.

By pointing to what he called the “three pillars of non-meritocracy”-seniority rights, tenure and pay scales that have nothing to do with competency-Mr. Klein reminded New Yorkers why he is a superb chancellor, and why he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg deserve our support as they battle the forces of the comfortable status quo.

In a candid speech, Mr. Klein lashed out at the union bureaucracy, which is more concerned with work rules and regulations than with encouraging excellence in teaching. Mr. Klein told the Citizens Committee for the Children of New York that schools “will never work because they’re governed by a 250-page contract and a 10,000-page book of regulations.” This may seem obvious to most of us, but not to the shop stewards of the U.F.T., who live by 250-page contracts. Perhaps at some point in their careers, the U.F.T. bureaucrats were filled with idealism and excited by the prospect of educating young people. Now, however, too many seem content to work by the book, knowing that rules and regulations prevent the city from taking action against mediocrity in the classroom.

It is a measure of the U.F.T.’s intellectual bankruptcy that its representatives could not counter Mr. Klein’s assessment with anything more than boilerplate union whining. A U.F.T. spokesman said that Mr. Klein was engaging in a “traditional management strategy.” Really? One might argue that he was advocating for excellence on behalf of the city’s one million public-school children.

With City Hall and the U.F.T. about to begin another series of contract talks, New Yorkers should remember which side has the best interests of the children at heart. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have taken bold measures to shake up the public-school system. Ms. Weingarten and her union have battled them every step of the way. Keep that in mind when the union bombards us with propaganda about the wonderful job its teachers are doing. And just be thankful that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein are on the other side of the bargaining table.

Chris Matthews: Cable’s Brilliant Bulldog

When it comes to government employees who move to a job in front of the TV camera, none caused more of a stir than George Stephanopoulos. The handsome, telegenic Clinton campaign guru turned White House insider seemed tailor-made to dominate the Sunday-morning news shows when ABC moved him into the seat occupied by David Brinkley. But life has a funny way of surprising you: Instead of the charming, dark-browed Mr. Stephanopoulos, it’s the carnivorous, pomp-free Chris Matthews who has successfully transformed a career in the public sector into that of a respected television host, much as NBC’s Tim Russert did before him.

From being parodied on Saturday Night Live for his loud, staccato delivery, Mr. Matthews is now being taken seriously as a reliable journalist. The September viewership of his weekday 7 p.m. show on MSNBC, Hardball , jumped 35 percent over last year. In New York, his Sunday-morning NBC program, The Chris Matthews Show , has beaten CBS’s Face the Nation and ABC’s This Week with Mr. Stephanopoulos. His book, American , is a New York Times best-seller.

Mr. Matthews didn’t come to broadcast journalism cold: He was the Washington bureau chief for The San Francisco Examiner for 13 years, worked as a speech writer for President Jimmy Carter, and for six years was a senior aide to House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

Since he knows the Beltway language, Mr. Matthews has no deference for the established political and media classes; he brings airy ideologues down to earth and suffers no fools. Viewers are given the passion of politics and provided with real information. As the country heads into the dizzying Presidential election season, it’s good news that Chris Matthews is on the air.

Bush’s Man at the E.P.A.