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Former Republican governor says party headed for 'Neanderthal' status

FormerNew Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman offered blistering criticism of her ownpolitical cohorts and the bipartisan cleft that is stalling progress onenvironmental regulations, warning that the Republican Party may find itself"relegated to the status of Neanderthals" if it keeps on its currentpath.

Inan interview, Whitman, who also served as U.S. EPA Administrator underPresident George W. Bush, critiqued the GOP platform released July 18, specifically the RepublicanParty's promise to turn the EPA into an "independent bipartisancommission" and shift more environmental regulatory authority to thestates.

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Former N.J. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman

"Idon't see how that works," Whitman said. "I think if you had abipartisan committee that had to decide everything, you'd be hamstrung and theAmerican people would lose."

Whilethe EPA's clean air and clean water rules are frequently the target ofattacks fromRepublican members of Congress and state lawmakers, Whitman said the agency does much morethan regulate emissions. For instance, the agency also in charge of makingpolicies related to mold, asbestos and toxic chemicals.

Moreover,the EPA has access to scientific advisers that Whitman noted the average persondoes not have. The EPA's approach to science has also come under fire fromRepublicans. Current Administrator Gina McCarthy testified at a house hearingJune 22 at which the scientific underpinning of the agency's regulations werequestioned. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, accused the EPA of "cherry pickingthe science that fits its agenda" during the hearing.

TheRepublican Party platform also proposed to withdraw the U.S. from the Parisclimate agreement andend the Clean Power Plan. Whitman said the average American believes inhuman-caused climate change as well as the importance of addressing its impacts— a position backed by a recent poll from a coalition of conservativeconservation groups. The June 28 poll found that 7 in 10 voters believe climatechange is real, 55% of all voters polled said they are more likely to support acandidate who believes that human activity contributes to climate change and65% overall said they are less likely to support a candidate who believes that climatechange is a hoax. The poll also put presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clintonahead of Republican nominee Donald Trump, 45% to 40%.

"It'sall what Trump has said he was going to do, and frankly I think it puts the[Republican Party] at direct odds with the American people," Whitman said.

Butthe Republican Party's newly adopted environmental provisions also put thecurrent leadership at odds with the party's own history, she added.

"Preservingand protecting the environment has been a Republican principle for a long, longtime," Whitman said. "The first public land was set aside by AbrahamLincoln. We all know that it was Theodore Roosevelt that built the nationalparks, and it was Richard Nixon who established the Environmental ProtectionAgency."

Whitmanputs the blame on party leadership, especially Trump. She said Americans careabout breathing clean air and their children's health, but Republicans seem tohave looked at environmental issues and decided to split from the Democrats onthose issues to solidify the conservative base.

"Thisis where we've gotten so off course, not just on the issues of environment, butjust about anything these days," Whitman said. "Particularly inWashington, but it's starting to seep down into the states, and it's dangerousfor the future of the country. Everything is not a partisan political issue. Wehave issues that are policy issues that need to be addressed for the good ofthe country."

Allthe rhetoric on both sides of the aisle has led to voter apathy, Whitman said,citing her belief that Democrats and Republicans will be doing some soulsearching after the 2016 election cycle.

"Democracydoesn't ask a whole lot of us, but it does ask us to vote and to be involved,and we just haven't been," Whitman said. "Pitifully low" voter turnoutwill only encourage Congress to continue with business as usual, she warned.

Whitmanin June told the hosts of Bloomberg's WithAll Due Respect that she will not support Trump and would prefer a Clintonpresidency over the "damage" that Trump could inflict on the country.