For Americans who want to breathe clean air and drink safe water, Dana Milbank's charges of pandering by Vice President Gore ring hollow [Outlook, Dec. 19]. Giving Americans the environmental protections they want isn't pandering--it's representational government.

Most Americans want to protect our wild lands and to stop polluters from dumping toxic chemicals into our skies and streams. Earlier this year, Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 89 percent of Americans want to use our federal money to protect wildlife habitat.

When Gore proposes tough environmental standards, he's responding to the will of the American people--and acting on his own long-held environmental concerns--not "pandering" to the Sierra Club, as Milbank alleges.

To hear pandering, listen to Texas Gov. George Bush claim that the air in Texas is getting cleaner, when he fought toughening clean air standards. In fact, he's being downright disingenuous--Texas's pollution reductions were mandated by federal regulation, and Texas's clean-up rate lags behind that of the rest of the nation. In the year when Houston surpassed Los Angeles as America's smoggiest city, Bush has taken pandering to a new level.

Milbank's disdain for environmental leadership by Gore and former senator Bill Bradley is profoundly misplaced. Theirs is not a newfound religion; rather, both have strong records protecting our air, water and land, a position supported by most voters.

--Carl Pope

The writer is executive director of the Sierra Club.