Since Gov. Jim Doyle’s gauntlet hit the ground with a resounding thud last week it has been met by a deafening silence from the presidential candidate camps. John Flesher of the Associated Press surmised that the lackluster response to the press conference held by eight Great Lakes Governors to request that presidential hopefuls clarify their positions on the Lakes is evidence that the candidates are scared. They seem about as willing to wade into waters stirred up by a drought stricken west and Southeast as a cream-fed house cat.
Last week, Gov. Doyle bemoaned the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire are not Great Lakes states. If only Iowa or New Hampshire were attached to one or more of the lakes we would have a complete vision for restoration outlined from each candidate with staff members assigned to continually flesh out the issue for the public.
Maybe inspired by the press conference–and the letters sent to the candidates from the region’s governors–the AP followed up by asking leading candidates from the two major parties about their vision for the Great Lakes – including whether regions “awash in water” should be sharing with others.
New York’s Hillary Rodham Clinton provided a “lengthy” response opposing the diversion of water from the Great Lakes and referring to them, as she has in the past, as a “most precious natural resource.” Smart move for a Lady from a state that borders Lake Erie, Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
Republican John McCain, clearly from a waterless Western state, was also against any federal mandate to divert Great Lakes water and said so while campaigning in Michigan. However, that state’s native born son, Mitt Romney, also a Republican contender for the White House, failed to specifically speak to the issue of protecting the Great Lakes. Instead he invoked a Colorado River water sharing agreement among seven Western states as a good example of water policy. It isn’t that surprising that wishful Romney didn’t mention protections or restoration for the Great Lakes since he provides no environmental leadership on his campaign Website and instead advocates for drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. No, I fear the Great Lakes would not be in good hands with Mitt.
Barack Obama’s response was a disappointment. He only said we need a national plan to conserve more water and use the federal government as a moderator between water consumers. Surprising, since the Chicago pol has a history of generous support for the Great Lakes – including sending an emissary to deliver a written statement to the Healing Our Waters Conference this past September.
Maybe the AP is right and the presidential contenders are recalling John Kerry’s “balancing act” gaff in 2004 and are scared to stake out a vision for the Great Lakes.
Or, just perhaps, they just don’t get it. It could be that they don’t realize they are dealing with an issue that evokes visceral responses from the residents of the eight Great Lakes States, the stewards of 90 percent of our nation’s fresh water supply. They don’t understand how deeply we care about the Lakes, how much we really want restoration and the resulting revitalization of an entire region’s economy.
Perhaps eight Governors demanding clarification, 141 electoral votes, five battle ground states – any one of which could be the state that delivers the election in 2008 as Ohio was in 2004- perhaps these very salient points have escaped the candidates and their Washington-bred advisors. Perhaps they really don’t get it. Or, perhaps they think that staying silent will keep them out of controversy.
“Candidates who turn their backs on the Great Lakes are turning their backs on our drinking water, our economy, our way of life,” Jordan Lubetkin, spokesman for Healing our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition told the Muskegon Chronicle. “Great Lakes restoration needs to be a presidential platform for Republicans and Democrats.”
Just a hint to you guys (and gal) running for high office: We won’t vote for anyone who is silent or who fails to promise to restore and protect the Great Lakes.