NEW YORK – Staunch in his stance against terrorism, President Bush now faces strong pressure to cave on another principled position he has taken.
Before departing for Asia this weekend, he will be hammered to "go the extra mile" on global climate change.
He should resist such pressure. Succumbing carries scant political upside. For nothing short of embracing the economically pricey though scientifically dubious Kyoto accord will bring Bush much credit. And doing anything more than sticking to current administration policy — continuing research on whether man-made global warming is indeed a big problem — risks high cost.
Bush is now taken seriously around the world — not due to his knowledge in foreign affairs, as Nixon displayed, but due to his values. He's proven to be a man of his word. That counts a lot in national security.
When British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher scolded the first President Bush — "Don't go wobbly on me, George" — the day after Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait, she gave him the best advice of his presidency. Indeed, the first President Bush had gone "wobbly" on his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge, and sundry other matters. Not going "wobbly" against Iraq gave him the singular triumph of his presidency.
Bill Clinton went "wobbly" on virtually all issues, especially apprehending Usama bin Laden during the three times his administration was offered the vile terrorist (and long before Sept. 11, but after Usama's killing hundreds of Americans abroad).
This President Bush has thus far proved different. He stuck to his views on the Kyoto accord and Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He declared a war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda and now fights it hard.
He's gained credibility, which is hard for any president to establish and easy to dissipate. Ronald Reagan became a successful president after establishing such credibility early on.
Twenty years ago, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan's new U.N. ambassador, and I, her deputy, had to explain a stunning 118-1 vote in the United Nations against the infant formula code, a popular measure that restricted sales of infant formula overseas. We were the "1."
The ferocity of European opposition to the formula code then was greater than what Bush has faced over the Kyoto accord. But glancing back to 1981 justifies Reagan's "standing alone." We took the heat and were proven right.
Of the 118 countries that voted "yes," only 20 ever implemented the code. Most U.N. members never bothered to turn the code into more than a megaphone to spout anti-corporate, anti-American rhetoric.
And, where applied, the code cost lives of newborn babies. Soon after the code was passed, the HIV/AIDS crisis began. In the 20 years since, between 1.1 million and 1.7 million children contracted HIV through breast-feeding. Studies show that about 15 percent of babies born of HIV-positive women become infected through breast-feeding. The code, where implemented, left mothers few other options.
Beyond being correct on the issue, in standing firm Reagan established presidential credibility. Hence when he faced Soviet leaders during crises, or Mohmmar Qadaffi during his spasm of terrorism, Reagan could speak both with conviction and credibility. Reagan knew he was right, and others knew he meant what he said.
So when White House staffers urge Bush to "moderate" his views on global warming before leaving town, he should realize that doing so will yield few benefits and may yield real costs.
Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com.
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