Good Cop, Bad Cop

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KYOTO, Japan: Two contrary reports of the Clinton Administration's position on a global warming treaty surfaced Tuesday, so dramatically different you'd could be forgiven for thinking the U.S. is playing good cop-bad cop. The nice: a top Japanese newspaper claims the American delegation has sweetened its offer from reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2012 to reducing them 5 percent below 1990 levels. The nasty: Washington threatened to quit the talks if it could not reach an agreement the U.S. deemed "workable."

U.S. negotiators had already wrong-footed the Europeans Monday with its differential greenhouse gas plan — each nation would get its own reduction target. Europe scoffed at that one, claiming it was a bid to get America off the climate change hook. But what of the 5 percent plan? Are both proposals being offered simultaneously? Throw in the presence of Senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska, who spent his day threatening Third World representatives, and you have a recipe for palpable confusion.

It might be expected that Al Gore will explain everything when he arrives next week — except it was Gore himself who played bad cop Tuesday. "We are perfectly prepared to walk away from an agreement that we don't think will work," said the environmentalist Veep. Now that's a poker face.