Only 47 more days until the election, and for some officeholders — specifically President Donald Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner — the polls aren’t looking all that rosy. They’re both fighting uphill battles for the hearts and minds of environmental voters, so they’ve engaged in a bit of last-minute greenwashing. That’s the deceptive technique used most frequently by corporations to convince shoppers of their products’ pro-environment bona fides — everything from cookware to flushable wipes. Think of it as the spin cycle of their (green)washing machine. And it works so well that politicians have added it to their PR arsenals.
If these weren’t such perilous times for the planet, it would be kind of amusing to watch Gardner and Trump turn themselves inside out trying to look all Earth-friendly. But with the world — especially the Western United States — on fire right now, it’s not funny... at all.
In an effort to scrub his filthy environmental record, in January Trump attempted to greenwash his many years of climate denial, saying “Nothing’s a hoax about that. It’s a very serious subject. I want clean air; I want clean water. I want the cleanest air with the cleanest water. The environment’s very important to me.”
But it just doesn’t wash.
On Monday, the old Trump was back. Visiting a burning California, he once again blamed the state’s devastating wildfires on its poor forest maintenance — not global warming — even though most of California’s forest land is federally managed.
“It will start getting cooler,” Trump said. “You just watch.”
“I wish science agreed with you,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot.
“I don’t think science knows,” smirked the president.
In Florida last week, he made a great show of banning oil drilling off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia — a looks-good reversal of his plans to expand coastal drilling — and described himself as the No. 1 environmentalist president since Teddy Roosevelt.
But here’s what you can believe: Donald Trump is a profoundly anti-science president who has worked to roll back 100 of the nation’s environmental protection rules. In its 2020 Dirty Dozen list of candidates “who consistently side against the environment,” the League of Conservation Voters named Trump “The Dirtiest of All Time.”
Trump and Gardner both used the August passage of the Great American Outdoors Act to pump up their environmental records. The GAOA (finally) invests in the Land and Water Conservation Fund and starts to address the national parks’ maintenance backlog. Trump thanked Gardner for championing the legislation, Gardner thanked Trump for signing it, and both took the greenwashing points.
And Gardner needed them.
The senator, after all, has a lifetime pro-environment score of 11 percent from the League of Conservation Voters and made the LCV’s Dirty Dozen list this year. He has given his confirmation vote to all of Trump’s anti-science, anti-environment wrecking balls — from the disgraced Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency to his replacement, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, and from disgraced Ryan Zinke at the Department of the Interior, to his ethics-challenged replacement, oil and gas lobbyist David Bernhardt.
Gardner’s shallow enviro record — and his attempt to make it seem deep and profound — was on display in a recent campaign ad titled “Both Parties.” Designed to show bipartisan approval of his stewardship, the ad lets voters hear from two pro-Gardner constituents. One, Larry Kramer, is identified in (Democratic) blue as a former deputy director of Colorado State Parks, though he’s actually a registered Republican and GOP stalwart.
The other face on camera is Alexandra Killey (whose credentials appear on-screen in Republican red), founder of Wild for Colorado LLC, which turns out to be a shell organization of the greenwashing variety. Media outlets outed Killey, who is a legislative aide to GOP state Sen. Paul Lundeen.
And though Gardner’s opponent, John Hickenlooper, has his own messy environmental record (that sticky “Frackenlooper” label) and will have to sell voters on his conservation plans, as the incumbent, Gardner has a Senate track record that will continue to be difficult to defend.