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GOP Nuts


A little keepsake for new year's from Republicans just to remind of remarkable moments of 2011.


Changing the Game: Your Part, My Part

In an era when the oil and gas industry poured more than $22 million into candidates’ coffers in the 2010 election cycle, it is easy to believe polluters hold all the cards. The truth is there are still ways to gain political power that don’t involve writing a fat check.

But in order to get in the game, you have to show up.

You have to get on your feet and make your presence known at lawmakers’ district offices, hometown rallies, or Washington events.  Some folks make their presence known through civil disobedience. I am too much of rule-bound first-born to take that path; being my mother’s daughter and having an arrest warrant just don’t jibe. But I have great respect for those who use this peaceful technique to capture politicians’ attention.

This week, for instance, environmental activist Bill McKibben, has organized daily sit-ins at the White House to call on President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline . The pipeline, which would run 1,700 miles from Alberta to Texas, would lock America into using more dirty tar sands oil—a fuel that generates three times as much global warming pollution as regular crude.

The people risking arrest include farmers, ranchers, businesspeople, and landowners from along the proposed pipeline route. They include religious leaders, labor activists, and others. And they include the renowned Gus Speth, one of the co-founders of NRDC, the chair of President Carter’s Council on Environmental Quality, and the former director of the United Nations Development Programme.  Speth was arrested during the sit-in, along with 161 other people so far. In a statement  from the Central Cell Block of the D.C. Jail, he said, “I’ve held numerous positions and public offices in Washington, but my current position feels like one of the most important.”

Having respected citizens like Speth invite arrest—during the same week the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is being dedicated in Washington no less—gets attention. It makes it harder for leaders to pretend constituents don’t care about the tar sands oil pipeline.

But civil disobedience is just one approach. If that’s not your style, you can find other ways to step up.

Because this is the season to get involved. It is the season of candidates riding around on bus tours. It is the season of new candidates joining races every other week. And it is the season of Member of Congress fighting to keep their jobs.

It is a political truism that even when people hate Congress as a whole, they still like their own members. The 112th Congress has blasted that pattern to bits. Earlier this month, CNN released a poll that showed for the first time ever that people are ready to throw their elected officials out of office regardless of party. This is sobering news for lawmakers.  It also means members will be spending more time in their home districts trying to shore up support. I encourage you to attend their public events (you can often find schedules on their websites) and ask them where they stand on key environmental issues.

Posing questions accomplishes two things. First, you find out what their position is.  One of the most powerful images for me in the 2010 election was from a video on YouTube of a young woman from St. Louis asking Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill: are you on the side of polluters or are you on the side of the people? McCaskill said she stood with people, but then she wound herself up into an agitated response, acknowledging the political contributions she gets from coal companies and even saying that the young woman’s question “irritates” her. Well, at least we know more about where she stands.

Second, asking questions show lawmakers that voters value environmental protections. Polluters are very busy trying to tell them otherwise. As the New York Times pointed out recently, candidates for the GOP presidential nomination have turned bashing the Environmental Protection Agency into a part-time sport. I think they do it because they think no one cares about environmental and public health safeguards.

We have to show them that we do care.

Politics is about repetition, and we need to use every town hall meeting, every bus-tour stop, and every ribbon cutting ceremony to tell our representatives that we care about environmental protection. And then we need to do it again.

The more we show up, the harder it is for them to ignore us. And the more we speak up, the sooner they will have to respond.

Perry Just Another Climate Denier

The past week has confirmed that climate paralysis reigns in the GOP. Michele Bachmann has been relishing her first place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll, but Ron Paul came in just 152 votes behind her. That counts as a toss-up in my book, and I can’t decide which one is worse: Bachmann who denies climate exists, or Paul who acknowledges that climate change might be real but doesn’t believe government should do anything about it.

The new golden boy of the race, Governor Rick Perry, shares Bachmann’s refusal to accept the reality of global warming. But unlike Bachmann, he stands a good chance of winning the party’s nomination. And that could have major implications for our country’s energy future.

Believe it or not, a Republican president doesn’t necessarily spell the end of climate action. Most major pieces of environmental legislation have passed when a Republican sat in the Oval Office: President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act, President Ford signed the Safe Drinking Water Act, and President H. W. Bush signed the Clean Air Act Amendments (which launched a cap-and-trade program to reduce acid rain pollution).

A GOP candidate or president with a moderate stance on climate change could move America down the road to reducing carbon pollution. But one who doesn’t even acknowledge the problem will make our nation’s eventual response cost too much and come too late. Unfortunately, Perry is squarely in the denial camp.

As Dylan Matthews points out in a piece in the Washington Post, Perry wrote in his requisite campaign book that “we have been experiencing a cooling trend, that the complexities of the global atmosphere have often eluded the most sophisticated scientists, and that draconian policies with dire economic effects based on so-called science may not stand the test of time.”

Last week examined a similar claim when Tim Pawlenty told the Miami Herald that climate science is “in dispute.” puts politicians’ statements through its so-called Truth-o-Meter, and most of the time the needle points somewhere in between True and False. For Pawlenty’s claim—and by extension Perry’s—the needle rested squarely on False.

This is Flat Earth territory. This is “I choose not to believe in gravity” wackiness.

I can find common ground with a GOP leader who acknowledges scientific data since, while we might have different views about the policies we need to address the problem, at least we can agree on the facts. But I can’t imagine that someone who so willfully ignores the evidence can successfully govern a country.

Perry has pronounced that he will not watch Al Gore’s slide show on climate change. What if he someday he decides he will not hear the security briefings from the CIA? What if he decides to stop listening to the people at the Federal Reserve? Is that any way to lead the nation? We don’t get to pick the facts of our times, but we do get to choose how we confront them.

There is something I share with Perry: a belief in prayer. But even here, Perry takes the easy way out. During his famous prayer vigil a few weeks ago, Perry called on the audience to pray for victims of the droughts plaguing the country – which is ironic since scientists tie global warming to increased frequency and severity of droughts. I am happy to join in that prayer, but my work doesn’t end there. I also do my part to solve the problem intensifying those droughts: climate change.

I believe God hears our prayers, but expects us to do our part.  My brother just had a stroke at the age of 28. My family and all our friends prayed as hard as we could that he would recover. But we also made sure he got to the hospital and did what the doctors told him.

Ignoring climate change doesn’t make it go away. And it is unlikely that resorting only to prayer without actions will work either. We need leaders—of either party—who can acknowledge what science tells us and meet in the middle to craft smart policy to deal with it. The GOP has a history of doing that on environmental matters. Someone just has to remind their party frontrunners of that fact.

GOP Presidential Candidates Are Inconsistent in their Religious Values

Representative Michele Bachmann officially joined the crowded field of GOP presidential candidates on Monday. Like many in the race, she identifies herself as a Christian. In fact, in her kick-off speech in Waterloo, Iowa, she described how she gave her heart to Jesus Christ at the age of 16, and how she uses prayer to guide her decision-making. 

But there is one area in which Bachmann departs dramatically from her own tradition and that of most Christian denominations in the nation: environmental values.  Bachmann calls climate change “nonsense” and she routinely refers to the EPA as “the job-killing organization of America.” And yet the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, to which Bachmann was until recently connected, asserts that caring for the world is “a moral issue.”

Bachmann isn’t alone: In a great new post, Eleni Towns of the Center for America Progress outlines how nearly every GOP presidential candidate follows their church teachings when it comes to abortion and gay marriage, but not when it comes to climate change and environmental protection.

As a Christian myself, I know what it is like to have disagreements with the Church. I don’t concur with every teaching that comes from the pulpit, and I believe that questioning is a vital part of faith. But I am still suspicious about the timing of this GOP heterodoxy.

Over the past several years, most Christian denominations have officially embraced environmental values broadly and the moral imperative to confront climate change specifically. The Vatican, the National Association of Evangelicals, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, and other churches have called for on the faithful to help solve the climate crisis.

Several GOP candidates agreed with these church teachings — until the Tea Party became the new religion in Washington, that is.

Ever since the Koch Brothers (who made their money in oil refining and other fossil fuel operations) started pouring funds into the Tea Party, it has taken on decidedly polluter-friendly positions: climate change does not exist, we should rollback public safeguards that help prevent business from harming communities, and companies should not be required to reduce their dirty emissions.

And seemingly, once GOP campaigns realized that the Tea Party might bring more voters to the polls than churches could, they too started following the gospel according to the Koch Brothers. They began siding with the guys behind the curtain instead of the guys in the pulpit.  Almost every candidate has flip-flopped from their previous positions on climate change in the last year, even as their churches’ positions have become stronger.

Back in 2008, for instance, Newt Gingrich sat down with Nancy Pelosi and made a video saying the only issue they agreed upon was the need to fight climate change. Today, Gingrich doubts climate science and questions the need for action.

When Tim Pawlenty was governor of Minnesota, he signed a climate law designed to reduce Minnesota’s carbon emissions and helped launch a regional climate initiative within the Midwest. Today, however, he wonders how much of climate change is caused by humans and accuses the scientific community of “data manipulation.” Pawlenty, who is an evangelical, must have missed the 2006 “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action” that 86 leaders signed, including the pastor of Pawlenty’s church.

I too hold positions that are at times out of sync with the Methodist Church, even though the church plays an enormous role in my life. It isn’t easy, and it makes me uncomfortable, and I only do it if my heart, my conscience, and my prayer guide me in that direction. I don’t do it to win primaries.  When the GOP candidates chose to follow the polluting Koch brothers instead of their own clergy, that’s pandering, not principle.


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