I haven't made up my mind about Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO and current Republican candidate for governor of my birth state of California. And REP's California chapter hasn't made an endorsement decision for next year's primary, so what follows is not an endorsement.
However ... after finding out what extremists have been saying about Meg Whitman lately, I'm ready to bake her a cake. Whitman, you see, has been criticized for - oh, the humanity! - donating large sums of money to environmental organizations. For her support for conservation, Whitman has been branded not conservative by the chiefs of the ideological thought police at the far right edge of the political spectrum.
This all came about because Whitman donated $1.15 million to a Colorado land protection organization that persuaded the town of Telluride to condemn nearly 600 acres owned by a developer who planned to build homes, a golf course, and a hotel. Reasonable people can disagree on whether such measures should be pursued to protect open space. Nevertheless, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled, 6-1, that the town was within its rights to do what it did. A jury awarded the development company $50 million in compensation, equal to its appraisal.
Whitman also has been taken to task for donating a tidy sum to Environmental Defense. ED is hardly a bunch of radicals; the buttoned-down group works closely with household-name companies such as DuPont, McDonald's, FedEx, and WalMart on projects to reduce waste and chemical hazards.
None of that matters, however, to radicals for whom stewardship of our natural heritage is the first step on the road to socialist perdition.
We could point out that the words "conservation" and "conservative" are etymological cousins. Russell Kirk, the author whose book, The Conservative Mind, is a touchstone, wrote that true conservatives resist the "reduction of human striving to material production and consumption."
We could also point out that Theodore Roosevelt didn't merely donate to conservation organizations, he founded one - the Boone and Crockett Club. Boone and Crockett, which included such worthies as Civil War Generals William T. Sherman and Phiip Sheridan, lobbied Congress successfully to protect Yellowstone National Park from poachers and the development designs of the Northern Pacific railroad. Boone and Crockett is still around, doing great work for wildlife conservation.
We could even remind the anti-environmental ideologues about the actions of the man every conservative venerates - Ronald Reagan. As governor of the state that Whitman hopes to lead, Reagan led a horseback camping trip into the Sierra to denounce a proposed trans-Sierra highway. Reagan also signed legislation blocking dams on free-flowing rivers on California's north coast and establishing a state wild and scenic rivers system.
Guess Reagan wasn't much of a conservative either, huh, fellows?
Ah, but the Gipper knew better than the knuckle-walkers who claim to revere his memory. In 1984, he said: "What is a conservative after all, but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live And we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live - our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it."
Mark those words well, Meg Whitman.
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