“America’s Best Idea”

Author: Gary Hart

All humans are sacred.  That is, until they prove otherwise.  All nature is sacred.  That is, until humans destroy it.  Of the many sins for which Donald Trump must answer in this life or another, among the worst is his destruction of what has been called “America’s best idea.”

In an essay in the New York Times (“The Beginning of the End of America’s Best Idea”, New York Times, November 23, 2018), Timothy Egan movingly intertwines American history with its decision in the last century or so to protect America’s natural heritage.  Though his focus is on California, and the devastating fires of recent years and those inevitably to come, he is writing for all our natural heritage…national parks, wildlife areas, recreational areas, unique pristine enclaves, camp grounds, hiking trails, and of course the wild animals that inhabit them.

That a huge national protest against Trump’s mounting depredations of all this heritage– left to us almost always against great resistance by corporate commercial interests–has not happened, is a mystery.  But it must begin.  He has spread so much unAmerican chaos in so many other domestic and international arenas that it is difficult to focus public attention on the long-term, probably permanent damage he has already done and promises to do against this precious heritage.

Though he holds what amounts to a sacred trust, the simple fact is: He doesn’t care.  Either he has no empathy for nature and its grandeur in America, or he places private profit ahead of it, or both.

Others have their own ground for impeachment.  This is mine.  The Constitution mandates that the president “take care that the laws by faithfully executed”.  He, his Cabinet officers, and their politically appointed subordinates are doing everything in their power to ignore or subvert the very national resource laws they are required to faithfully execute.

If you believe, as I do, that there is intergenerational accountability, the duty of each of us to preserve the commonwealth for future generations, and that this duty is moral, ethical, and sacred, then this president must be condemned for falling so far short of this standard.  Even worse, he consciously and purposefully trashes the standard.  His destruction of our heritage is perverse, intended, and even hateful.  He does not care.

There is much natural destruction guided by the president.  None more so than his denial of climate change.  All serious science and common sense connect increased carbon emissions with forest fires, rising tides, and increased storms.  Yet he casually, even gleefully, destroys regulations on those emissions for no other reason than that they were promulgated by the Obama administration.

We all know his demented approach; shrink national park and wilderness boundaries, open federal lands to exploitation, and appoint officials at Interior, EPA, and related agencies whose commitments were and are to privatize our national heritage for profit.  In a Constitutionally intended system of checks and balances, with a Congress responsible to the people, this would not have been permitted to happen.  Historic shame now rests on collaborative Republicans in Congress.

What will it take for Americans concerned for their children’s future to rise up?  Further evidence of dereliction of duties is not required.  Decades of hard work, of speaking and preaching, of testifying and legislating, or public education, were required to achieve the natural and environmental accomplishments we have achieved.  Considering the damage already done and that to come, many more decades of similar struggle will be required to repair this damage in decades ahead, even to return to the more sane pre-Trump era.  And that does not include an unfinished agenda not even being addressed.

Not all of our natural national heritage is in the West, but much of it is.  The East is experiencing flooding and severe weather.  The West is aflame, and those flames often engulf national forests and parks.  Regardless of our location, however, the public natural heritage belongs to all of us and is held in trust for future generations.

It should be on our national conscience to honor that trust.

[The author’s qualifications: Special Assistant to the Solicitor, US Department of the Interior, 1965-67; member, United States Senate Environment Committee. 1975-87; Chairman, Clean Air Committee, US Congress, 1979-80; Presidential Clean Air Project, 2004-05]


11 Responses to ““America’s Best Idea””


    Every word you write gives me the inclination and more, to take part in the rescue, the protection, the betterment, of the United States, country of origin of my wife, country of my in laws, country of kin who ventured across the ocean, from the British Isles and the Continent of Europe, to the Americas and a new continent.

    What is a man to do who so wants to help. I need a really good job offer!!!!!

  2. Gary Hart Says:

    Me too, Lorenzo. Gary

  3. Ken Cody Says:

    Thank you Senator Hart for this recent post. Hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving. I agree what you are saying. I do worry for our children and future generations to come. Our current President does not show respect for the Presidency and continues to divide the nation. I hope that in the near future we will have the option of electing a Presidential candidate that looks out for the interest of the people not for himself.

  4. Gary Hale Says:

    Hope this finds you well. I think now and then of my small involvement in your campaign and how much better off our country might have been if a few members of the media had not lost their minds and standards.
    Enjoyed this post in particular because I spend my days now working with my company’s partners helping businesses, schools and communities become greener with their energy practices. It is very fulfilling on a personal basis. However, our country needs a sustained national effort to protect our planet and our children.
    My very best wishes to you and your family. Please keep up your good work.
    Your old friend in CT,
    Gary Hale

  5. Gary Hart Says:

    Thanks, Gary. So many friends across the country for so many years are among my greatest blessings. GH

  6. Joe Thompson Says:

    I campaigned vigorously for you during your run for the Presidency and truly believe you could have made a real difference in the State of our Country. Watched you on CBS Sunday Morning and really enjoyed it. You look good and healthy. If Trump thinks there’s fake news now…he should gave been around when the fix was on in Miami back then! Would love to know (without you publishing it) how to contact you and get an personal autographed picture from the man that should have led our Nation…God Bless You!

  7. Jim Bickhart Says:

    An appropriate framing of Trump’s sins and failings regarding stewardship of our natural heritage.

    You’ve been in mind of late – I saw the film, read Matt Bai’s book (as well as various of yours), read Doug Wilson’s nice article on CNN.com, saw you on CBS. The memories of those complex days in May 1987 echo strongly through time.

    It has occurred to me that part of what you were up against was the “perfect storm” you faced by trying to conduct (and will) a different, more substantive type of campaign at the same moment various forces were moving campaigns in exactly the opposite direction. You were outnumbered.

    Sometimes – perhaps usually, one supposes, we don’t enjoy the luxury of being able to test our theories and beliefs to their fullest extent. You certainly didn’t. But, as with many things, you turned out to be right about us getting the kind of leadership (if one could call it that) we deserve for allowing things to go that way.

    All the best for the holiday season. Until our paths cross again…

    One of the “Hart guys,”
    Jim Bickhart

  8. Bill Pruden Says:

    This thoughtful posting, combined with the finally completed election season, coupled with the recently released film The Front Runner as well as your television appearances related to the film, are a poignant reminder of what might have been. At the same time, they are, in their own way, an inspiration, a powerful reminder of your life long–and still ongoing–commitment to the betterment of the nation and its political process. Indeed, the post and its discussion of the environment and our nation’s heritage are in their own way a continuation of the film’s scenes about the location of your announcement speech, a debate that reflected both your determination both to do things differently and to change things. The power and symbolism–on many levels–of that visual are no less relevant to our current condition than are the blog post’s stated concerns about the environment and what we will bequeath to our young. We live in a distinctive and strange political time, one which like much in your career, you foresaw. It is a time that cries out for leadership, but leadership is hard to find, and as the final scenes in The Front Runner make clear, the current system does nothing to encourage the kind of leaders we need to enter the fray. And yet years later, despite your own disappointments, you continue to seek a place in the arena, working to rallying those of us who still care–and hopefully a younger generation that is starting to recognize the extent of the challenges we face. No one ever said politics was easy nor that our leaders would be or could be perfect, but as The Front Runner makes clear, it would have been easy for you to walk away but your belief in the process and in this country would not allow you to do that. For that we must say thank you while also trying to apply that example to our own lives.

  9. John Dedie Says:

    Did you help write this letter? I can hear your voice reading it. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/12/10/ex-senators-op-ed-1055429

  10. Gary Hart Says:

    I didn’t participate in drafting the Senatorial letter, John, but would have been happy to participate if asked. It reminds me once again, and should remind others, that there was a time when Democrats and Republicans agreed on certain national principles. But thanks for hearing my voice. Gary

  11. Matthew Correia Says:


    I just found this blog. The new movie “The Frontrunner” really struck a chord with me and caused me to read your book “The Courage of Our Convictions” which is absolutely brilliant. I am a college student myself, currently working on a project about how politics has become a media spectacle, and the possibility for a new generation(and the pitfalls this new one may face with the internet).

    I am wondering what you think of the Bernie Sanders campaign and the seeming response of the popluarist base of the Democratic party(people like Cortez specifically) showing how the strength of his ideals(despite his status as a senior-citizen jewish white man) have brought people into the fold. I’d love to read an article on this from you!

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