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News from the Front #33:

Gore Campaign Memo Promises to Breach Dams--or Does It?

Friday's Oregonian contained a typical example of media coverage of the Gore campaign, as the Republicans caught Gore making extremist promises to the environmentalists, and the Gore operatives successfully spun the event as Republicans "twisting the truth".  

Gore's promises are contained in a fifteen-page memorandum addressed to "Friends of the Earth Action" on Gore 2000 campaign stationary.  It begins with Gore "sharing with you my priorities for our environment--and my agenda to make the next decade the Environmental Decade".   Gore then commits to all sorts of extremist promises ranging from "reducing funds available for highways", to ensuring "that there is no road construction, timber harvest or other development in roadless areas".  Eventually, he gets to:  "Proposed Action:  Announce a decision to remove Snake River dams, which act as a barrier to the restoration of Northwest salmon."  (Emphasis in original.)

But don't worry.  Gore says that he is committed to "avoiding massive economic dislocation in the region".  Economic dislocation is fine, just not massive economic dislocation.  Gore and the enviros know that is better to cause rural communities to wither away quietly than go out with a bang that might generate some political opposition.

Then the memo does something strange:  Gore announces that he supports the new draft biological opinion on hydropower--mischaracterized as a "comprehensive strategy"--and its impossible-to-meet "performance measures".  "These performance measures", the memo says, "will help determine whether more aggressive recovery efforts, such as dam breaching, are needed".  

So is it a Gore staff screw-up?  Which sentence shouldn't be there, this one or the italicized promise to remove dams?  The Oregonian didn't print any explanation from the campaign, instead quoting a representative of Friends of the Earth.  His story is that the "announce a decision to remove Snake River dams" language comes from questions the enviros posed to Gore.  He says that Gore's answer appears below that question:  rather than immediately announce a decision to remove dams, Gore will set things up so dams fail to meet impossible performance standards (zero net loss of salmon), and then breach the dams.     

It sure looks like the memo is promising the enviros that Gore will announce a decision to remove the dams, but the additional sentence makes the promise ambiguous, perhaps on purpose.  Maybe it's not a Gore staff screw-up, but rather an effort to placate environmentalists while maintaining plausible deniability.

The media will never track down the person who wrote the memo and find out what was really intended. But thanks to the miracle of the Internet you can download and the 15-page memo here (860 Kb), and make up your own mind as to what Gore intended.  (Can't read it?  You need to download Adobe Acrobat.)  

Whether or not the memo contains a specific hard promise to remove the dams now, the memo provides pretty conclusive evidence that Gore will  continue the War on the West.

James Buchal, September 23, 2000

You have permission to reprint this article, and are encouraged to do so. The sooner people figure out what's going on, the quicker we'll have more fish in the rivers.

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