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Healthy Sibling Rivalry

July 31, 2001

Cracks are starting to emerge in the Bush administration's managerial efficiency. One sign of conflict within the administration is in the debate over stem cell research, which has pitted White House officials against each other. Another, more unexpected, controversy has erupted over the Kyoto global warming accords, rejected by the United States but with a promise of U.S. action.

On Sunday, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice slapped down Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's assurance in Europe two weeks ago that by October the United States would create a plan for tackling global warming. "I don't think we want to set a deadline of a specific meeting," Rice told CNN.

Whoops. But the fact is that friction is a good thing. It shows that the administration may yet curb its worst instincts. A near-theological opposition to doing anything about global warming is confronting reality.

On one side is Powell, perhaps with the support of Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill, who as a businessman vocally favored regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Powell in particular is an enemy of certain conservatives in the administration and Congress who despise the State Department on principle and see him as predisposed to appease America's critics and foes. On the other side are, among others, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rice. Cheney, of course, wants to ramp up the production and consumption of fossil fuels. Fortunately, pressure from Republicans and Democrats in Congress may strengthen those in the administration who support emissions cuts. The public also supports broad pollution controls of the sort that President Bush seemed to favor during his presidential campaign. Let's hope that Powell, with whatever allies he can muster, has only begun to fight.

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