It is rare for someone of Mr. Babbitt’s stature to use such caustic language about a sitting president from his own party. But he was reflecting growing concern — which we share — that the president and his top aides have decided for political reasons to back away from the fight. In recent months the White House has been far too quiet on the problem of climate change, and its once-promising efforts to regulate industrial pollution, toxic coal ash and mountaintop mining are flagging.
…Mr. Babbitt’s main complaint involved Mr. Obama’s failure to do more to conserve open space and protect sensitive areas threatened by imminent development. He was particularly dismayed by the White House’s acceptance of a Republican budget rider — pushed by the oil and gas industry — undercutting the Interior Department’s authority to identify and set aside valuable public lands for future designation as permanent wilderness.
…Mr. Babbitt also said President Obama should emulate President Bill Clinton, Mr. Babbitt’s old boss, who faced similar opposition after the 1994 Republican revolution but came roaring back. After wavering for a while, he seized the lead on conservation issues and threatened to veto all anti-environmental legislation. The public supported him; the Republicans retreated. It is sound advice.