Two editorials from the Sunday, September 24, 2000 Detroit
GEORGE W. BUSH : READ AL GORE'S BOOK TO VOTERS
by Nolan Finley
Vice-President Al Gore inked the perfect blueprint for victory in
Michigan and other Midwestern battleground states.
Now, George W. Bush should read it to voters.
Gore, back in 1992, penned a baffling tome outlining his vision
for America's industrial heartland - essentially, silent smokestacks,
lost jobs, obsolete workers. Earth in the Balance is a dense
collection of junk science and doom and gloom warnings about everything
from global warming to global birth rates. It's also a declaration
of war on the automobile industry, and most other industries that
convert natural resources into finished products and, along the
way, discharge some pollutants into the air and water.
It ought to terrify voters in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, western
Pennsylvania and Missouri - all places where livelihoods depend on
heavy industry. They're also the states where the presidential
contest will likely be decided.
Still, recent polls show Gore leading in most of these key states,
From that you can conclude either Midwestern voters don't know the
vice-president advocates killing the internal combustion engine
and slapping a carbon tax on gasoline, or they don't believe he
really means what he wrote. Or they know and believe, and still
prefer Gore to George W.
If the latter is true, the Republicans can just go ahead and throw
in the towel. If voters who lived through the economic devastation
of the 1970s and 1980s, who saw their factories close and their
jobs sail overseas as the domestic automobile industry staggered,
who suffered the indignity of having their states collectively
labeled the Rust Belt - if these voters would knowingly cast their
ballots for the author of Earth in the Balance, then Bush hasn't
But if Midwestern voters aren't aware of the danger presented by
his opponent's extreme environmentalism, then Bush has a terrific
opportunity to stop chasing Gore's campaign issues and start shining
a spotlight on Gore himself.
That doesn't mean going negative or taking cheap shots. It simply
means reading from the book.
Imagine the impact of television ads that roll Gore's own words
across a dark screen, along with a short message:
* Gore hates cars. "We now know (the internal combustion engine's)
impact on the global environment is posing a mortal threat to the
security of every nation that is more deadly than that of any
military enemy we are ever again likely to confront."
* Gore really hates cars. "It ought to be possible to establish a
coordinated global program to accomplish the strategic goal of
completely eliminating the internal combustion engine over, say,
a 25-year period."
* Ditto. "We must recognize that our heavy reliance on cars as our
primary means of transportation accounts for a large proportion of
the (carbon dioxide) emitted in the atmosphere from the industrial
world. Objectively, it makes little sense for each of us to burn
up all the energy necessary to travel with several thousand pounds
of metal wherever we go."
* Gore would make driving cars more expensive. "I propose that we
create an Environmental Security Trust Fund, with payments into
the fund based on the amount of (carbon dioxide) put into the
There's lots more in the book for Bush to work with, including
disturbing proposals to give other nations far more influence over
manufacturing in the United States, in much the same way as the
Gore-backed Kyoto Treaty on global warming. But in Michigan and
the Midwest, the passages on automobiles ought to be enough. Mess
with cars and you mess with jobs, as we've learned from painful
past experience. "Gore will cost you your job" is a powerful
Gore as "Karma Chameleon" has come and gone on lots of issues during
his political career. But so far, he's remained steadfast in his
environmental positions. If he's not a threat to the automobile
industry, he should step up now and explain himself.
If he can't or won't, Bush should grab Gore's book and whack him
It's not a new strategy. Michigan is where Sen. Carl Levin destroyed
Jack Lousma in 1984 with commercials that berated Lousma for
praising Toyotas. In his book, Gore lauds Japanese automakers for
leading the race to build electric cars, saying, "Once again, the
Japanese auto companies have disproved the mercantilist chestnut
'What's good for General Motors is good for America.'"
American auto executives, who considered President Clinton fairly
benign because he left the auto industry alone are scared to death
of Gore. They've read the book.
Bush's challenge is to place Earth in the Balance on the best-seller
list in Michigan and other Midwestern states where, if it weren't
for the automobile, working families wouldn't be working.
Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The Detroit News. His
column is published on Sunday. Write letters to 615 W. Lafayette,
Detroit, MI 48226, or fax them to (313) 222-6417 or send e-mail to
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LAND MINES AWAIT DEMS IN COURT RACE
by Thomas Bray
In July 1997, a Detroit narcotics detective attempted to purchase
heroin at a house suspected of harboring drug dealers. He was told
to "come back with someone I know, and I'll take care of you." But
in the course of the conversation, the dealer flashed a large bundle
of small coin envelopes commonly used to package drugs.
The detective succeeded in persuading a district judge that this
gave him probable cause to suspect drug trafficking at the house.
The judge approved a search warrant, and the alleged dealer was
arrested and charged with possession of less than 25 grams of
heroin. The defendant appealed on grounds of an illegal search, but
in March of this year the state Supreme Court ruled, by a 5-2
majority, that the warrant had been properly issued.
The dissent was written by Justice Marilyn Kelly, a Democratic-nominated
member of the court. She argued that the fact that the suspect was
spotted with a large bundle of coin envelopes wrapped in rubber
bands was no reason to suspect illicit activity. "On the basis of
these facts," wrote Kelly, "the most immediate and reasonable
inference to be drawn is that (the) defendant believed that the
officer made an offer to purchase a single coin envelope."
Right. Somebody walks up to your house in a marginal area of Detroit
and asks to buy a coin envelope. Happens every day.
So you can expect to hear a lot about the case, titled People v.
Whitfield, in the days ahead. The Democratic Party, well-funded by
trial lawyers and unions, has already unleashed a blizzard of ads
charging that the incumbent Republican justices - Clifford Taylor,
Stephen Markman and Robert Young - too often side with "big
corporations and insurance companies" in their decisions, as if there
ought to be a quota for such things.
But the incumbents, who have been endorsed by most major Michigan
law enforcement agencies, are set to trot out some heavy artillery
aimed at a traditional Democratic soft spot: crime. The thrust of
the message will be: If you like Marilyn Kelly's look-the-other-way
approach to crime, you'll love the other Democratic nominees trying
to get themselves on the court this fall.
The drug packet case isn't the only exhibit. In a case decided
last year, Justices Taylor and Young (Markman wasn't yet a member
of the court when the case was heard) voted with the majority to
uphold the conviction of a man convicted of first-degree criminal
sexual conduct involving his 14-year-old daughter.
The trial judge had erred in admitting certain testimony prejudicial
to the defendant, they conceded. The errors were minor, however,
and the law requires an "affirmative" showing that they led to a
miscarriage of justice before a conviction can be overturned. Kelly
and a colleague, Justice Michael Cavanagh, complained that it
shouldn't be left to a mere court to make such a decision - though
that would seem to be precisely why a judge is called a judge.
And earlier this year, Taylor, Young and Markman voted to deny
damages against the Detroit Police Department in two separate
high-speed chases. In both cases, the drivers had been ordered to
stop. In both cases, the drivers fled, crashing their cars and
killing three of their passengers (though not themselves). In both
cases, local courts threw out the damage claims of the families.
But Kelly and Cavanagh again dissented, insisting that cops have
a duty to avoid situations that might lead to injury or death. The
majority issued a stinging rebuttal. Not only does Michigan law
say damages can only be collected when police are the "proximate
cause" of an accident - for example, by recklessly operating their
own vehicles. In this case, the majority acidly noted, "To prevent
the accident, all the fleeing driver need have done is stop."
It may not be entirely fair to tag the Democratic challengers with
decisions of their colleagues on the court. But it's no more unfair
than to charge the Republican incumbents with being lackeys of
"big corporations and insurance companies." The Democrats, by going
heavily negative first, may be about to reap the harvest.
Thomas J. Bray is a Detroit News columnist who is published on
Sunday and Wednesday. Write The News at 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit,
Mich. 48226, or fax to (313) 222-6417, or send an e-mail to
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