Last Friday, Andre Heinz--the stepson of Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry--made his first solo campaign appearance for his stepfather at a press conference on the downtown waterfront. The 34-year-old son of Teresa Heinz Kerry and Republican Sen. H. John Heinz III (who died in a plane crash in 1991), he has largely stayed out of the limelight--easy for him, since he works as an environmental consultant in Sweden. After his press conference, Heinz sat down with WW to talk about the environment, science and Swift boats.
WW: You're here to talk about the environment. What are your stepdad's three top environmental priorities?
Andre Heinz: First off, it's to restore our scientific and regulatory credibility, to restore the function of those departments that have been just crippled under Bush. Second, to lead this nation beyond regulation and start moving down the path of avoiding problems in the first place. Third, to resume our place as a beacon for the rest of the world. We're not alone on this globe, and a majority of people are trying to industrialize as well. There aren't enough resources to support that kind of industrialization, so we have to show how you can meet human needs and meet the needs of the environment--in fact, you can't do one without the other.
What is the worst environmental policy decision the current administration has made?
That's a tricky question to answer, because it depends on how you evaluate cost. I would say the worst thing this administration has done is neuter the role of science in decision-making. They've become ideological and political in areas that have never been and should never be. They've ignored findings around global climate change, clean air and clean water.
Your mom and dad were both Republicans--
As was I.
Why did you change?
Well, actually I'm registered as a "Declined to state," which is an option in Pennsylvania. What I've seen change over the past 10 years has been a rightward shift toward ideology and divisiveness. In the old days, it was like, "We have a different perspective, and this is why." When you approach people that way, you are inherently open to dialogue and learning. That is the complete opposite of what I perceive this administration to be like--and the Republican Party under this administration. They turn collaboration and learning into demonization and ignorance. I think that's incredibly dangerous. A little humility would go a long way.
Has the environment become more of a partisan issue?
Yes. It's been politicized and completely blown out of proportion. It's partly, I would say, the--I don't want to say the fault of environmentalists--partly a shared problem. The problem is that when you have a command-and-control regulatory structure that looks [at problems] after the fact, it's not doing its best to help industry.
It sounds like you're coming down somewhere in middle.
Well, if that's how you like to term it. I think the notion of right and left and middle is missing the point. The question is, how do we as a society meet our needs economically, socially and otherwise, and also take care of the environment? In order to do that, you have to be efficient and smart. The trick is to actually join into a conversation to say, "OK, how can we do this better?" The problem with current administration is that they say, "We'll just let you guys come in, and we'll exclude the other people who should be a part of this conversation."
What do you think of the ads by Swift boat vets attacking Kerry?
It's a bucket of slime. It's completely groundless. It is an assault on John Kerry's service and the choices he's made, which are beyond reproach. He volunteered for something that other people hadn't volunteered for, though they could have--they will remain nameless. But it's an insult not only to John, but also to everyone else who served. Why is that? Because it disputes the process by which medals are awarded. It's also an insult to the American people because it's diverting attention to a war 30-some years ago, when we should be focusing on how to take care of the one in Iraq.
So it's just a distraction?
I'm not in a position to say whether it was an intentional distraction on anyone's part. But I think it does distract not only, ironically, from the current war, but also from the issues that John has been addressing his whole campaign. It's slinging lies, confusing people, causing divisions.
What do you think is going to be the biggest obstacle for Kerry campaign?
I think John's actually been doing a remarkable job. There are those who will say he's been defined by Bush because he's on the defensive. In point of fact, [the Swift boat ads] will serve as a backlash against the administration as people realize they've been spewing smoke and smog, literally and figuratively, because they've got nothing to say.