AUSTIN, Texas -- O Karl Rove, Karl Rove, birder thou never wert. If George W. Bush loses the election narrowly in November, put it down to the birders. You read it here first. What was Rove thinking when he allowed William Haynes II to be nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit?

            There are all the usual reasons for rejecting a Bush judicial nominee -- he's only tried one case; no understanding of the Constitution; author of the "enemy combatant doctrine" that allows American citizens to be held in prison without trial, without counsel and without knowing the charges against them. But the fatal faux pas is the feather-blowing tale of Haynes' role as the top Defense Department lawyer in the case of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

            DOD wanted to use an island in the Marianas for bombing practice, so Haynes' team of lawyers argued that bombing the bird haven would not break the treaty and that the bombing would actually enhance bird-watching because people "get more enjoyment out of spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a common one." By this logic, we should drive every bird on earth to near-extinction and just think what a thrill we'd get out of ever seeing one. According to The New York Times, "Mr. Haynes says he only supervised the case and was unaware of the bizarre claim." He only (SET ITAL) supervised (END ITAL) the case?

             Well! If you have never seen a flock of enraged birders, you don't know what danger is. These people don't just watch pewits and tweety-birds, they're into raptors, too -- falcons, eagles ... they know how to swoop and strike. If we find Rove beaten to a pulp with binoculars, it will be no surprise. How could he ignore the immemorial warning, "Beware the wrath of the birding legions!"

            Back to business. There's no way to keep up with the Bush administration's assaults on the environment, they're just endless. Most notable lately was the decision to let mercury pollution, which is extremely toxic, continue. With current technology, we could cut mercury emissions by 90 percent in four years. Instead, the Bushies chose a plan that will reduce it by 50 percent over 14 years, thus saving millions for their big campaign contributors in the power, coal and chemical industries. To make up for it, they warned pregnant women not to eat tuna. But that's not all:

            -- The U.S. Forest Service is going to eliminate any reviews of its actions by outside agencies for compliance with clean water, endangered species and historical preservation laws.

            -- The Department of Energy is moving to overturn a court decision on standards to clean up the country's most toxic and radioactive waste.

            -- The Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general has concluded that senior Bushies at EPA have repeatedly made misleading statements about purported improvements in drinking water quality. (Oh no, not Bushies lying!)

            Other actions way too numerous to mention here can be found on the websites of assorted environmental groups.

            To counter this ghastly record, the GOP put out a "talking points" memo for Republican members of Congress. In it, the congressmen are advised to inform their constituents that: A) global warming has not been proved, B) there are no clear links between childhood asthma and air pollution (in what I assume was an unintentionally hilarious slip, the memo advises R's that the links are "cloudy"), and C) America's rivers and lakes aren't nearly as polluted as the EPA says they are. The EPA says at least 40 percent of our streams, rivers and lakes are too polluted for drinking, fishing or swimming.

            Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont observed: "It's so incredible that they have this denial of any responsibility for the serious situation we have in this country as far as the environment goes. They have a head-in-the-sand approach to it. They're just sloughing off the human health impacts -- the premature deaths and asthma attacks caused by power plant pollution."

            One of the weirdest environmental developments of late is the attempt by right-wing anti-immigrant groups to take over the venerable Sierra Club. The latest fad among these anti-immigrant groups, many of which have ties to disgusting racist groups, is to blame immigrants for our environmental problems.

            I see a lot of Mexican immigrants, and some must be illegal, gardening in this country, but I don't know of many who run power plants that spew tons of mercury into the air. You hardly ever see an illegal Mexican immigrant on a snowmobile in Yellowstone. Illegal Mexicans are seldom in charge of timber companies that want to clear-cut the national forests. It's not often that illegal Mexicans run chemical companies that dump toxins into rivers and wetlands. It's rare to find an illegal Mexican in the Bush administration deciding to end the Superfund cleanup program or to lower air and water quality standards.

            I don't know about you, but I don't think we can pin this one on them. Reckon these folks have some other agenda?

            To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.