Being a moderate in Washington can be lonely. During two-plus years as EPA chief under President George W. Bush, CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, 58, was attacked as too green-friendly by the right and too business-friendly by the left. Since stepping down, the former New Jersey Governor has started a consulting business and written a new book, It's My Party Too, in which she takes on the "social fundamentalists" she argues have hijacked the G.O.P. In this excerpt, Whitman recounts one of her most frustrating early experiences at the EPA, including an unsettling encounter with the Vice President just outside the Oval Office.
When I accepted President Bush's invitation to join his Administration at the EPA, I knew the President shared my vision of finding new, innovative ways to advance environmental goals--approaches that didn't rely on the heavy hand of government but would instead build partnerships around shared goals for a better environment. The Bush Administration deserves credit for some important environmental measures, including, among others, mandating major reductions in emissions from nonroad diesel engines and enacting legislation to accelerate the cleanup of thousands of polluted sites around the nation. Yet in recent years, the Republican Party's reputation as a steward of the environment has dramatically deteriorated, and the party is now widely perceived by the American public as downright anti-environment. Our efforts have been overshadowed by those in the Administration, and in key leadership roles in Congress, who never seem to miss an opportunity to dismiss environmental protection as a priority. Rather than forcefully and consistently making the case for more innovative environmental policies, the approach in recent years has always been to emphasize instead the party's sympathy with the concerns of business. This was made abundantly clear to me very early on in my tenure at EPA when the Administration abruptly reversed itself in a way that would have serious consequences.
Less than six weeks after I started at EPA, I was scheduled to travel to Trieste, Italy, for what would be my first meeting with my G8 counterparts--the environmental ministers from Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Russia. The official purpose of the meeting was to further an ongoing effort among the G8 to agree on the next steps in addressing global warming. I was keenly aware that this was the first opportunity for our closest allies to take the measure of President Bush's stance on environmental policies. I also knew their expectations were low because the President had come out against U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol before the 2000 election. This controversial international treaty--which, at the time, had been ratified by only one industrial country, Romania--requires much of the developed world to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to slow global warming.