Clinton's Kyoto Caution

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WASHINGTON: Bill Clinton may have welcomed the Kyoto climate treaty, but he won’t make the mistake of submitting it for ratification just yet. The White House announced Thursday that it will delay sending the treaty to the Senate until the third world signs on to the greenhouse-gas-cutting effort. Developing nations, however, continue to insist that the industrialized nations, which are the worst offenders, must go first.

Clinton's calculated caution will disappoint Republicans, for whom Kyoto has already become the first real battleground of the 2000 election (not to mention the '98 budget and midterms). For the first time since Fred Thompson's hearings disbanded, the GOP smells blood — and its best chance to sink some teeth into the Vice President.

Party grandees are falling over themselves to denounce the treaty, and paint Gore — who showed his spirit at Kyoto Sunday — as an extremist. You can tell it's a campaign issue when Steve Forbes comes out of the woodwork: the once-and-future presidential wannabe called Kyoto "an unprecedented government seizure of American freedom and sovereignty." Jack Kemp, still smarting from the '96 Veep debate, described it as "dangerous."

And above the din is the calm, steady voice of Trent Lott, urging Clinton to "have the strength of his convictions to submit this treaty as soon as possible for the scrutiny of the United States Senate." Come into my parlor, said the spider ...