Bush's Chat With Novelist Alarms Environmentalists
The New York Times, Feb. 19, 2006
WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 - One of the perquisites of being president is the ability to have the author of a book you enjoyed pop into the White House for a chat.
Over the years, a number of writers have visited President Bush, including Natan Sharansky, Bernard Lewis and John Lewis Gaddis. And while the meetings are usually private, they rarely ruffle feathers.
Now, one has.
In his new book about Mr. Bush, "Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush," Fred Barnes recalls a visit to the White House last year by Michael Crichton, whose 2004 best-selling novel, "State of Fear," suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat.
Mr. Barnes, who describes Mr. Bush as "a dissenter on the theory of global warming," writes that the president "avidly read" the novel and met the author after Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, arranged it. He says Mr. Bush and his guest "talked for an hour and were in near-total agreement. The visit was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists all the more."
And so it has, fueling a common perception among environmental groups that Mr. Crichton's dismissal of global warming, coupled with his popularity as a novelist and screenwriter, has undermined efforts to pass legislation intended to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas that leading scientists say causes climate change.
Mr. Crichton, whose views in "State of Fear" helped him win the American Association of Petroleum Geologists' annual journalism award this month, has been a leading doubter of global warming and last September appeared before a Senate committee to argue that the supporting science was mixed, at best.
"This shows the president is more interested in science fiction than science," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, after learning of the White House meeting. Mr. O'Donnell's group monitors environmental policy. "This administration has put no limit on global warming pollution, and has consistently rebuffed any suggestion to do so," he said.
Not so, according to the White House, which said Mr. Barnes's book left a false impression of Mr. Bush's views on global warming. Michele St. Martin, a spokeswoman for the Council on Environmental Quality, a White House advisory agency, pointed to several speeches in which Mr. Bush has acknowledged the impact of global warming and the need to confront it, even if he questions the degree to which humans contribute to it.