Kennedy bashes Bush for ‘crimes against nature’ |

Kennedy bashes Bush for ‘crimes against nature’

Robert Kennedy Jr. signs books at Explore Booksellers on Thursday evening. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.

There’s one thing in particular about George W. Bush’s re-election that bugs Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Kennedy believes most Americans, Republicans as well as Democrats, are environmentalists who support strong laws that protect nature. But the majority of voters in November selected a president that Kennedy considers the single biggest hazard to the environment.If the American people are so firmly behind the environment and environmental protections, why did they re-elect Bush?Kennedy, who is speaking at the Wheeler Opera House today at 5:30 p.m., explained that paradox when reached on his cell phone while he rode the Ruthie’s chairlift on Aspen Mountain yesterday.He placed a big share of the blame for Bush’s re-election squarely on the shoulders of the media.

It’s more common to hear the media accused of a “liberal bias,” but Kennedy claimed conservative influences have prevailed since 1987 when a policy called the Fairness Doctrine was abolished. The Reagan administration gutted requirements that forced television stations to provide multiple sides in political coverage and required them to cover topics of community interest. Reagan also eased laws that prohibited concentration of media ownership as a favor to conservative broadcasters, Kennedy said.The deregulation predictably spurred consolidation. And looser controls on content freed the broadcasters to focus on “sex and celebrity gossip” rather than issues of public interest, Kennedy said.So reporters trip over one another to cover the Kobe Bryant rape case and the Lacy Peterson murder case, but they “haven’t done their job to tell the American public that the administration is destroying the environment,” Kennedy said.TV networks now devote less than 4 percent of their news minutes to environmental issues, he said.Kennedy considers this “a very troubling time” because of numerous ways that “corporate cronyism” dictates the Bush administration’s actions without proper exposure. He’s on a mission to expose it himself.Kennedy has written that he has felt “fury” over what the Bush administration has done to the environment. For more than a year he has fired a blistering volley of accusations against the administration in magazine articles, interviews, speaking engagements and in his new book, “Crimes Against Nature.”

Kennedy said that Bush’s policies are bad for democracy as well as bad for the environment because people with corporate interests pervade upper levels of the federal government.As proof, Kennedy notes that the head of the U.S. Forest Service, Mark Rey, is a former lobbyist for the timber industry. Bush’s “Healthy Forest Act,” which was passed under the guise of thinning forests near populated areas to reduce risks of wildfires, is really an effort to weaken forest protection laws, he said.Kennedy further noted that Steven Griles, deputy secretary of the Interior Department, is a former mining industry lobbyist. He questioned whose interest Griles looks out for while he oversees management of millions of acres of public lands, including Bureau of Land Management holdings throughout western Colorado and Utah.The cronyism has also afflicted the Environmental Protection Agency, Kennedy lamented.”The polluters have been put in charge of the agencies that are supposed to protect the public from pollution,” he said.Kennedy’s speech is being presented by the Aspen Skiing Co. and the Natural Resources Defense Council. They timed it to coincide with the Winter X Games so the message could directly and indirectly reach the broad, young audience that’s invaded Aspen. Tickets are sold out.

Kennedy, 51, is a senior attorney with the NRDC as well as the chief prosecuting attorney for an organization called Riverkeeper. He is also founder and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, which fights to protect the health of waterways across the country.The NRDC is also in town for the X Games to raise awareness about global warming, according to John Steelman, the council’s program manager. It teams with the National Ski Areas Association in a program called “Keep Winter Cool.””Aspen has been one of our more active partners in this,” Steelman said.He said he is convinced the ski industry isn’t participating to “green wash” or make itself appear to be concerned about environmental issues to improve its image. He thinks the participation in genuine. More than 70 ski areas, for example, endorsed federal legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.”It’s pretty brave (of the ski industry) to be talking about something that threatens the sport itself,” Steelman said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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