Ignorance Rages at CPAC

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference is taking place this week. Billed as the largest gathering of conservatives in the nation, it is known for giving participants a chance to kick the tires of potential presidential candidates.

This year is no exception. The list of confirmed speakers reads like a primary ballot for 2012 or 2016, including Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, John Thune, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Johnson, John Barasso, and Rick Santorum.

When I read through these names, I realized that every single likely candidate in the early GOP field is claiming to believe that climate change does not exist or opposes doing anything about it. Climate denying has become a litmus test to the far right wing of the Republican Party – what a sad commentary when there is a tacit requirement for someone to REJECT SCIENCE in order to even be in the running to win the nomination.

Take Senator John Thune of South Dakota.  When asked his view on climate science, he said, “I guess the answer to the question is I’m not sure. I think there’s a real mix of data on that.” Representative Ron Johnson of Wisconsin goes farther. He claims that record spikes in temperature are the result of “sunspot activity” – an idea that scientists have checked and explicitly rejected.

And that’s just two CPAC speakers. The entire conference seems dedicated to walking America backwards.
Most of the conference speakers decried the comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that Congress abandoned last year.  It would have unleashed technological innovation and generated nearly 2 million jobs. Representative Michelle Bachman urged the people of Minnesota to be “armed and dangerous over this issue.” And most of them have spoken out against the EPA’s efforts to make our air safer by reducing carbon pollution. Newt Gingrich wants to abolish the agency altogether, while his fellow CPAC speaker Senator Barasso introduced a bill that would, in effect, prevent states and every federal agency from doing anything at all based on concern about climate change. That goes even further than Senator Jim Inhofe’s bill that would block EPA from limiting carbon dioxide emissions.  Inhofe – who infamously called climate change a “hoax” – has been joined in his effort by Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the former moderate who chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.
This position may generate applause lines at CPAC, but it is out of step with what Americans want. According to a new poll  done by Opinion Research Corporation for NRDC, almost two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say “the EPA needs to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water.”

The folks at CPAC fail to see how cleaner air and climate solutions will take America into the future. Instead of embracing sustainable energy resources, they prefer burning black rocks like we’ve done since the 19th century. Instead of putting American companies at the forefront of the 21st century global marketplace, they prefer to keep us addicted to ever diminishing supplies of oil.
This U-turn into the past will put America in a dangerous position. Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed devastating floods in Pakistan that further destabilized an already precarious nation, we have watched Russia endure a punishing drought that economist Paul Krugman linked to both climate change and rising food prices, and we have seen Australians battle a flood that submerged an area the size of Germany and France combined. We can’t tie any single weather occurrence to climate change, but scientists have repeatedly stated that more severe weather events are a hallmark of what human beings are doing to the climate.

CPAC speakers like to pretend climate change doesn’t exist, but what the facts on the ground reveal are impossible to ignore. And the GOP can continue to build its house of cards on a bunch of deniers, but most Americans want to build a safer, more sustainable future.

This blog was originally posted in NRDC’s Action Fund blog, The Mark Up.



The New Republican Party Endorses Domestic Terror

It’s a sensationalist headline, I know. But it’s kind of true. I'm no hyper-partisan, but a spade's a spade and a Scott Brown quote is a Scott Brown quote.

The Tea Party-9/12 movement is increasingly a movement of violence. Maybe you consider the murders of Dr. Tiller and the Holocaust Museum guard part of that movement, maybe you don't, but the undeniably concrete examples are still plenty enough: guns outside presidential speeches, speakers and party chairs stating their desire to murder U.S. Senators, and now, a terrorist attack on federal offices in Austin, TX. And yet, as evidenced by Internet reactions, the tone of this year’s CPAC conference, and an interview with the newest U.S. Senator, the Republican Party’s latest incarnation is going out of its way to endorse the Tea Parties and thus, by extension, their violent methods.

After jumping the gun on the Kentucky census worker, I held off on blogging about the Austin attack on the IRS, but the facts are now in: suicidal murderer Joe Stack shared the rhetoric and views of the Tea Parties. And what’s the Republican Party’s reaction? Do they eschew this act of terror and finally stand up to the increasingly dangerous Tea Party rhetoric? Did they take a stand at CPAC? Not so much. According to Golden Boy and alleged “moderate” Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), the attack, while "tragic," isn’t anything to worry about because “no one likes paying taxes, obviously.” When asked his reaction to the murder and its motive, all he would say is that people are frustrated at the government.

So that’s the Republican Party’s new message on terrorism: it’s okay, as long as it’s aimed at American liberals. My, how patriotic of you.

To those who would say highlighting these events is just cherry-picking the fringe of the Tea Party movement, I have two answers. First, even if it is only a small, unrepresentative fringe spurned to violence by the fuller movement’s rhetoric, it is still that larger rhetoric that inspired it, and the results are still atrocious. I am reminded of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which holds racist groups legally accountable for the violent actions of their fringiest of fringe members.

But more importantly, I do believe that this violence truly is representative of a large swath of the Tea Party – perhaps not a majority, but certainly more than a fringe. One piece of evidence is the right-wing’s social networking reaction to the Austin IRS attack. Twitter was alive with support for Stack's terrorism, and over 2 dozen Facebook groups were created just to cheer the man.

Another is this video of Rachel Maddow’s coverage of the CPAC Conference, the conservative party’s annual confab turned this year into one giant Tea Party. Yes, it’s from a liberal source, but you can’t deny the point she makes at 6:30: the movement’s own literature showcases the images and rhetoric they otherwise try to convince us isn’t so representative.

There is, however, some solace. The danger of this movement is in its rhetoric and its ability to influence the Republican Party the way the religious right did until so very recently, but not in its ability to actually field its own successful candidates. The winner of the 2007, 2008, and 2009 CPAC presidential straw polls? Mitt Romney. The winner of the CPAC/Tea Party 2010 straw poll? Ron Paul. With the Tea Party in charge, CPAC and the conservative movement are clearly losing their ability to stay grounded in, their words not mine, “real America.” As Politico's Jonathan Martin Tweets, "Paul folks made something of an effort at straw poll. The inaction of others & these results won't augur well for future cpac s polls."

CPAC Wonders

Here's Minnesota Governor and presumed 2012 GOP Presidential contender Tim Pawlenty encouraging conservatives to emulate Tiger Woods' wife and take a nine iron to big government spending. Perhaps not the best thing to say in the wake of an attack on the Austin, Texas Federal Building yesterday.


Then there's Marco Rubio, now the front-runner to win the GOP nomination in the Florida Senate race, refusing to condemn comments made by Glenn Beck and others.

And here's Marco Rubio opening the CPAC conference where he suggests that the 2010 mid-term election is a "referendum on our national identity."

It's curious that conservatives have yet to realize that it is their economic policies have that have us in this straightjacket.

CPAC: Classy

It's really problematic that CPAC organizers seem to think this type of thing is perfectly acceptable (via Think Progress):

Attendees at a conservative conference in town this week will have the opportunity to whack a pinata of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Conservative Political Action Conference “CPAC” begins Thursday here in D.C. and will feature a party Friday evening where guests will have the opportunity to whack a Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pinata.

Keri Ann Meslar, director of development for the Greater Washington Sports Alliance and Katherine Kennedy of The Blonde Charity Mafia will be two of three famous D.C. residents taking a turn at the pinata during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which starts on Thursday. Meslar will be the guest “whacker” at a CPAC-sponsored party in Georgetown.

Disturbing on a few levels, including the obvious ones related to violence.

But also weird how one-dimensional some of the conservative energy is. 'Pelosi bad!' Whack.

I can't imagine any equivalent at Netroots Nation - partly because the concept is so...garish? But also because it just wouldn't be satisfying. I don't want to whack McConnell in the head, I want to decrease his relative ability to affect the passage of progressive legislation!


Rush Limbaugh and the GOP Nervous Breakdown

It seems that the Republicans are suffering from a nervous breakdown.

It's cause is deep insecurity, which manifests itself in denial, as exhibited for example, by the attempt to obstruct the American Rescue and Recovery Act, and congratulating themselves for being irrelevant regarding it's passage.

A symptom is confusion, loss of self identity. What direction do they go in? Who is the leader? Do they go in a direction that puts them more in touch with the majority of people? Or do they retreat inward and hold on for dear life to the one core constituency they have left, and risk consigning themselves to a doctrinaire niche? Do they follow the lead of a chairman who wants to reorganize the party, and show some backbone, or do they turn into little lemmings and follow a pompous overinflated blowhard "with talent on loan from God," over the narrow cliff of their doctrines?

Well, the Republicans chose the  latter of each set of choices.

There's more...


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