Huntsman Must Change Strategies to Rise

Former Governor Huntsman has once again said he accepts the reality of climate change. He told ABC's Christiane Amanpour on Sunday: “Let me make it crystal clear. I’m on the side of science in this debate.”

He is now the only GOP candidate for the White House who stands by climate science. All the others have denied it from the start or changed their positions once they got in the race. Even Huntsman had a temporary lapse a few weeks ago, but he quickly cleared up any doubt that he sees climate change as a threat and believes humans have caused it.

Huntsman knows this position sounds reasonable to the moderate voters who will sway the presidential election. A recent Pew poll found that 63 percent of independents agree there is solid evidence of rising temperatures. And more than six-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming.

But in the GOP primary circus, science gets no respect and Huntsman gets no love. Nearly every other candidate has been the flavor of the week, except for Huntsman. How can he finally get his day in the sun? By reminding voters his is a stable, consistent leader who doesn’t flip.

Huntsman hasn’t captured the limelight yet because he looks too much like Romney. He is another conservative – but not Tea Party, Mormon governor with a background in business. At a time when voters and party leaders are looking for the anti-Romney—even former RNC Chairman Michael Steele said of Romney “the brother just can’t bake the cake”—you can’t win by being more Romney than Romney.

Huntsman has to distinguish himself, and he can do that by emphasizing the very thing his opponent lacks: steadfast conviction.

Take the issue of climate change. In June Romney told a crowd: “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that… And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.” But then Romney’s commitment to scientific fact went the way of his positions on health care reform and collective bargaining: it flipped. In October 2011, he said: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Huntsman, meanwhile, acknowledged the threat of climate change when he was governor of Utah and he acknowledges it now that he is a candidate for the White House. He holds his convictions for more than a news cycle and that counts for something these days. Our country is in upheaval, and voters are wondering where the adults are. Huntsman is an adult. Whether you agree him or not, he represents exactly what he always has. And in the face of a shifting economic and an uncertain future, stable, even-keeled leadership will sound good to a lot of voters.

But Huntsman can’t wait for voters to come to him; he’s got to do a better job of reaching out to them. If Newt Gingrich has stepped into the ring before you got your turn, you know your campaign strategy isn’t working. Huntsman should change it by emphasizing constancy.

Huntsman Flirts with Climate Craziness, then Returns to Scientific Reality

Former Governor Jon Huntsman is suffering from a case of always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride syndrome. He has watched as nearly every other GOP presidential candidate has taken a spin with frontrunner Mitt Romney.

First Tea Party darlings Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry had their chance to dance around the floor. Then Herman Cain was delivered into the spotlight with his economics-by-mnemonics plan. Now Newt Gingrich has stepped in for his match with Romney.

All the while, Huntsman has remained a wallflower. The man without an expense account at Tiffany’s or extramarital skeletons in his closet can’t get any love. Maybe that’s why he tried flirting with the Tea Party crowd this week.

For months, Huntsman has been the voice of reason in a chorus of denial. Back in August, he famously tweeted: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

But in a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, Huntsman started to hedge. When asked if he thought climate change was caused by human activity. He replied: “I don't know -- I'm not a scientist, nor am I a physicist. But I would defer to science in that discussion. And I would say that the scientific community owes us more in terms of a better description or explanation about what might lie beneath all of this. But there's not enough information right now to be able to formulate policies in terms of addressing it overall.”

The reaction was instant: the blogosphere lit up with reports of this apparent reversal on an issue that has become a conservative litmus test. The next day, Huntsman was out trying to set the record straight.

“Let me be very clear on this,” he said. “There is no change. I put my faith and trust in science. So you have 99 of 100 climate scientists who have come out and talked about climate change in certain terms, what is responsible for it. I tend to say this is a discussion that should not be in the political lane but should be in the scientific lane.”

Either Huntsman’s words were genuinely taken out of context or the response to those words made him realize he has more to lose than gain by toying with the Tea Party.

Huntsman knows the White House will be won with the help of independent voters, not the radical fringe. In August, Huntsman called Governor’s Perry’s climate denial a “serious problem” for the GOP. He told ABC news in August: “The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.”

Huntsman has built his brand on this reasoned approach. He is the experienced businessman, governor, and ambassador who projects an air of calm, assured leadership. The trouble is so does Romney, and in a race for the White House, you only need one business leader with moderate leanings. Romney staked out this ground first, and Huntsman will have a hard time pushing him aside.

With Huntsman standing in Romney’s shadow, the public hasn’t gotten a chance to learn as much about him as I would like. He hasn’t been put to the scrutiny that the other rivals for Romney’s spot have been given, and I think that’s shame.

I would like to find more about the single GOP candidate who respects climate science, for on this issue, Huntsman actually represents a majority of independent and Republican voters.

A recent Pew poll found that 63 percent of independent voters agree there is solid evidence of rising temperatures. And more than six-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming, up from 41 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 65 percent of all Americans agree that climate change is a very serious problem facing the nation.

Huntsman seems to understand this, and that’s why I hope he gets his chance to be a GOP bride.

Another Romney Flip Flop: More Pollution From Cars and Trucks

Another day, another flip flop. At Sunday’s Mike Huckabee-hosted presidential forum, Republican candidate Mitt Romney offered up yet another flip flop, this time on reducing global warming pollution from cars and trucks. He said that he would “get the EPA out of its effort to manage carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles and trucks.”

Back in 2004, then Governor Romney signed Massachusetts up to copy California in implementing carbon emissions standards for light duty vehicles. The car companies pretty much hated that because it created a dreaded “patchwork,” in which the standard would apply in about half of the states but not in the rest.

Luckily, the Obama administration stepped in. The President brokered a deal to come up with a single national standard to reduce carbon pollution, which the car companies, the states, unions, EPA, and environmental groups like NRDC could all agree on. He made it happen primarily through a rule issued by EPA, which reduces pollution, saves consumers money, and reduces confusion for industry. That program was so successful that last month, EPA proposed to extend and strengthen the program through 2025.

Back to Romney. Of course, no one likes a flip-flopper. But the truth is, sometimes it makes sense to change your mind. You get new information, like former climate-skeptic Richard Muller who came to his senses and realized the globe really is warming up. That’s what makes Romney’s latest flip flop so infuriating. Almost every bit of new information we have shows that the need to reduce global warming pollution is greater than ever and the dangers are worse than we previously thought.

And the rules that Romney once supported, but now decries, provide tremendous benefits. The new set of rules would save over 4 billion barrels of oil. Owners of new efficient vehicles would save up to $4,400 over the life of the vehicle. Since he doesn’t seem to have any problem with changing his positions, can we humbly suggest that the Governor just go ahead and switch back to the position that is good for industry, good for consumers and good for the planet?

Can We Give “Job-Killing Regulations” a Rest?

Politicians love to go for the easy applause line and lately, in Washington, that has meant decrying “job-killing regulations.”

Republican candidates for president have all gone for this crowd-pleaser.

  • Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has promised to “tear down the vast edifice of regulations the Obama administration has imposed on the economy.”
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry claims he would halt all regulations and impose a sunset so that they would automatically expire.
  • Herman Cain claims that eliminating regulations would provide “an immediate boost for our weakened economy.”

Even President Obama has at times appeared to buy-in to this notion, ordering every agency to review its existing regulations to eliminate burdens on business, even though such analysis would have been completed when the regulation was first written.

It may be a crowd-pleaser, but it turns out that it simply isn’t true that regulations kill jobs. The Washington Post talked with some of the country’s top economists and experts on the relationship between job creation and regulations. The conclusion?

“Overall impact on employment is minimal.”

The truth is that regulations can impact jobs but don’t have much effect when it comes to employment. That means that a particular regulation might reduce jobs in one industry but create them in another. For example, a clean air regulation might reduce jobs at a dirty coal-fired power plant and create new jobs at a clean-burning natural gas plant. But, looking at the big picture, employers report that only 0.3% of layoffs are due to “government regulations/intervention.” That’s small potatoes compared with the 25% of jobs lost due to reduced demand for products and services in our weak economy.

While they may not have a big impact on jobs, regulations do have a big impact in a lot of other areas, namely in protecting workers, the public and the environment. So, let’s put “job-killing regulations” to rest. If our politicians are looking for new descriptions, how about “life-saving, people-protecting, society-benefiting regulations”? It’s not so catchy, but it has the benefit of being true.

Cain’s Other Scandal

Herman Cain is having a moment. Thanks to his economics-by-mnemonics plan and his unconventional, smoke-filled ads, Cain recently shot to the top tier of the GOP campaign. He became what Ryan Lizza called the fringe frontrunner.

But when you step to center stage, you realize just how glaring the spotlight can be. Cain’s campaign is reeling from revelations that two former employees at the National Restaurant Association accused Cain of “inappropriate behavior.” His inconsistent statements about the ordeal are only making matters worse.

The harassment story will dominate Cain’s coverage for some time to come, but there is another scandal lurking in the background that deserves attention as well.

Mark Block, Cain’s chief of staff, has been implicated in a host of campaign financing improprieties. And as researchers pore over financial documents, they have found substantial links between Cain, Block, and the Koch Brothers.

Koch Industries own oil refineries and 4,000 miles of pipeline and was named one of the top 10 air polluters in the nation in a 2010 UMass-Amherst report. The Kochs’ political donations are often aimed at promoting their Libertarian views, but they also directly benefit their own profit margins. They have donated millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that fight environmental regulation and seed doubt about climate science. A Greenpeace report called them a “kingpin of climate science denial.” And though green groups tend to paint ExxonMobil as the worst of the worst when it comes to lobbying against climate legislation, Koch outspent even them.

It’s no surprise that Cain would attract Koch money and dollars. He says he doesn’t believe in climate change, and he believes public health and environmental safeguards are “burdensome.” Those are appealing positions for dirty polluters like the Koch’s business interests.

But now we can connect the dots. Cain’s Chief of Staff Mark Block ran the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a group cofounded by the Koch brothers to develop the Tea Party movement. Block met Cain through Americans for Prosperity and encouraged him to run for president. Block then launched spinoff groups from Americans for Prosperity, including Prosperity USA, which gave money and services to Cain’s campaign. It also paid for Block’s trip to meet with David Koch in Washington.

This doesn’t mean Cain was the Koch brothers’ top choice. They fund several candidates who back their anti-regulation, anti-clean energy, and anti-climate action agenda. They were major players in the midterm election and they will likely continue paying to keep their dirty talking points at the forefront of the presidential race.

That is their right, according to current campaign finance laws. But it is also voters’ right to know where the big money comes from and what kind of influence it buys. In the case of the Koch brothers, it seems to advance candidates who give polluters a free pass and disregard how this will damage the health of American families.

Hot Romney, Cold Romney

Last Friday, Former Governor Mitt Romney confirmed once again that his political convictions are as variable as the weather. His positions on health care and collective bargaining have been blowing in the wind for some time. Now his stance on climate change has melted away.

Speaking in Pittsburgh, he told the crowd: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Only months ago, Romney said: “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that…And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you’re seeing.”

Climate denials are a dime a dozen in this year’s GOP race, but in the past, Romney has recognized the threat of global warming. But the past is rarely a prologue for Romney. Romney acknowledged climate change when he wanted to appeal to moderate voters, and he rejected it when he wanted to curry favor with the Tea Party.

These ever-changing positions could do some long-term damage to public health and the environment. It looks like the Mitt Romney who is trying to survive the GOP primary season is working against the Mitt Romney who could actually win the general election.

The next occupant of the White House will be decided by the voters in the middle, not the ones on either extreme. Most of them know climate change is real. A Reuters/Ipsos poll done in September found that the amount of Americans who believe the Earth is warming rose to 83 percent from last year’s 75 percent. More than 70 percent of them believe think the warming is caused partly or mostly by humans.

Then Romney found himself in a race shaped by Tea Party extremism. Governor Rick Perry is a full-throated climate denier. His state is in the grip of the worst drought in nearly 100 years that together with the wildfires has costs Texas $5.2 billion in agricultural losses. But still Perry won’t cry uncle. He refuses to acknowledge the climate change happening all around him.

Rather than providing a counterweight to Perry, Romney decided to join him in Denialville. As wacky as Perry’s climate stance is, I think he actually believes it. Romney should know better. It’s hard to imagine he’s acting out of misguided conviction; this smacks of pandering.

Romney chose a funny week to walk back his stance on climate. Just days before, one of the staunchest climate skeptics publicly reversed his position in the Wall Street Journal. Physicist Richard Muller released a study—funded in part by the polluting Koch Brothers—saying that temperature data confirms the Earth is warming.

We already knew this. The National Academy of Science among others said in 2010: “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risk.”

Romney risks leaving the crowd behind. His experiments with extremism are making it hard for moderates to buy into the whole reason he is the front runner and not the Tea Party crasher. In the past when Romney’s flip-flopped, he’s just rejected his own policy positions; this time he’s rejecting a scientific consensus.

 

 

 

Perry's Energy Plan Offers More of the Same When America Needs Innovation

Governor Rick Perry made a big display of presenting his energy policy last Friday. He positioned it as a bold new plan for America, but this drill, baby, drill approach to energy was already stale when Sarah Palin stumped for it three years ago.

It’s is déjà vu all over again. We've had a Texas oilman in charge of our country's energy policy: it worked out a lot better for Big Oil than it did for the American people. We wound up paying $4 a gallon at the pump while Exxon walked off with $45 billion in profits.

Now Perry is offering more of the same. I think the familiarity is part of the appeal. His campaign is going for the safe, tested messages here—the proven buzz words that poll well across a broad spectrum of the Republican Party.

When you have seriously considered succeeding from the union and you deny the existence of climate change, your Tea Party credentials are pretty secure. To win in the general election, however, you need the conventional GOP voters too. Perry can pick and chose from this “all of the above” approach to energy to appeal to whichever audience he is speaking to at the time: the mainstream and the radical fringe.

That may be savvy campaigning, but it doesn’t do much for America.

Perry’s plan calls for pursuing fossil fuels to the ends of the Earth. He wants companies to drill miles under the Arctic Ocean for oil and inject fracking chemicals deep into people’s backyards to bring up natural gas.

We can look in new and more extreme places for fuel, but Perry’s plan boils down to this: burning rocks to create energy. It’s the same technology we’ve been using for 200 years. Where is the innovation? Where is the vision that will carry America into the 21st century? Where is the leadership?

The rest of the world is racing to design the most cost-effective solar panels and most reliable wind turbines, because they know clean technologies will generate clean power AND lots of money. Worldwide clean energy investments were valued at $243 billion in 2010.

Perry’s plan disregards these market realities, and by doing so, hands over dominance of the clean energy market to China. He selling America short in a field we could actually lead in favor of one we never will: oil production.

Perry’s call for homegrown energy has a great ring to it, but when your home only has 1.6 percent of the globe’s proven oil reserves and you consume 26 percent of the world’s supply, there is a limit to what you can achieve—no matter how many wells you sink. That's not politics; it's geology. And no bumper-sticker slogan can change it.

America is already drilling more than we have in decades. Perry claims that President Obama has blocked domestic oil production, but companies drilled almost 21,000 oil wells in the first eight months of this year—the highest number in almost 30 years. That’s nearly double the amount drilling the same period last year, and nearly triple the number drilled in 2009.

Yet none of this protected us from $4 a gallon gasoline this spring. Nor will it protect us from China’s growing demand, Middle Eastern politics, or any of the other forces the shape the global oil market.

That’s where the innovation comes in. Better performing cars will reduce our oil dependence, and smarter policies will encourage technological advances. This summer President Obama’s announced new fuel efficiency standards. By 2025, new cars and light trucks in this county will go about twice as far, on average, on a gallon of gas, compared with today’s vehicles. The difference will save Americans $80 billion a year at the pump. It will also reduce our oil use by 3.1 million barrels per day by 2030 and cut automobile carbon emissions in half.

Now that’s a new direction for America, a way to move into greater energy security, cleaner air, and more prosperity. Perry’s plan is a retread. Sticking to the energy sources we have used for two centuries may help his campaign, but it won’t do much for our country.

Clean Energy Advances Despite Washington’s Worst Efforts

Tea Party leaders like to paint clean energy and climate action as issues that matter only to elite Democrats living in coastal cities. This claim would come as a surprise to the 38,000 autoworkers building fuel efficient cars in Michigan, the 80 companies involved in the wind supply chain in Iowa, and the more than 100,000 Americans working in the solar industry across the nation.

But even if the Tea Party isn’t interested in genuine opportunities for job growth, it can’t ignore where the latest climate action is coming from: Texas and GOP statesmen.

Both are wellsprings of conservative values, and when Texas residents and Republican elders start talking about clean energy and global warming, it’s time for moderate lawmakers to listen.

As of October 1st, Austin, Texas became the largest city in the nation to rely entirely on renewable energy to power all of its facilities. The city of Houston still purchases a larger amount of renewable energy, but Austin leads the way in meeting all of its energy needs from clean sources. City officials said they pushed for these changes because they wanted to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality for residents.

Governor Perry may still live in Denialville, but the rest of Texas has joined the global community. The state is converting its West Texas wind into power and money, and it now gets 8 percent of electricity from renewable sources. As Van Jones says: that’s not hippy energy, that’s cowboy energy. And it reflects rangeland values of independence, resourcefulness, and putting a resource to use instead of wasting it.

A growing number of luminaries in the Republican Party share those values. Earlier this week, the National Journal reported on a quiet campaign among elder GOP statesmen to call for climate action.

John Warner, the former Virginia senator and former Secretary of the Navy, is a senior advisor for the Pew Project on National Security, Energy, and Climate Change and he has been speaking at military bases to draw attention to the security threat posed by climate change and oil dependence.

George Shultz, President Reagan’s Secretary of State and an advisor on President George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, is also a member of Pew’s climate project. Shultz says Republicans can no longer ignore evidence coming from places like the ice cap in the Arctic. He says people like climate deniers like Perry are “entitled to their opinion, but they’re not entitled to the facts.”

Shultz wields a considerable amount of influence. Last year, when Texas oil companies funded California’s Proposition 23 to defeat the state’s global warming law, Shultz told the National Journal his response was: “We’re not just going to beat these guys, we’re going to beat the hell out of them. We conducted a vigorous campaign. It was a lot of fun.”

And it was wildly successful. Californians defeated Prop 23 by a ratio of 2 to 1. More people voted on Prop 23 than on anything else on the ballot, including the gubernatorial and Senate races, and even counties that backed Republican candidates shot down Prop 23.

Men like Shultz and Warner—along with Former Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC), Former Representative Sherry Boehlert (R-NY), and others—share the goal of making our nation strong, secure, and independent. They know the politicization of environmental issues is a recent phenomenon, and they are not afraid to say fighting climate change should be part of the Republican platform.

I admire these leaders; I only wish their campaign wasn’t so quiet. I want to see them on Meet the Press and Face the Nation. If they make their voices louder, they will help create the political space for Republican candidates to start confirming climate science and advocating climate action.

Right now, the Tea Party has the megaphone. People like Rick Perry are yelling that climate change doesn’t exist and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is shouting that Congress must dismantle the Clean Air Act and rob the EPA of its authority to set limits on carbon pollution. This would upend a law signed by President Nixon signed and strengthened by President George H.W. Bush. It would also endanger the health of millions of Americans.

This overheated rhetoric is pushing our nation into a more disrupted and more dangerous climate. We have to bring it back from the brink. I remember back in the 1980s, my mom watched infomercials in which Susan Powter would shout: Stop the Insanity.

Cities like Austin, Texas, and leaders like George Shultz and John Warner are adding much needed sanity to the climate debate. They remind us that protecting our nation from climate change and putting Americans to work in the clean energy sector are not elite, partisan issues. They are the building blocks of the 21st century.

How Obama Can Keep Latino Voters: Focus on Health and the Environment

President Obama spent most of the week in California, the state known as the electoral ATM. It was a smart way to close out the third quarter of the fund raising cycle. But even as the checks roll in, campaign watchers are assessing which candidates have energized which segments of the electoral map.

Judging from current numbers, Obama is developing a bit of a Latino problem.

A recent Gallup poll found that his approval ratings have fallen to 48 percent among Latino voters—the lowest since he became president. In 2008, Obama carried 57 percent of the Latino vote. Today, 48 percent say they would give him a second term. In New Mexico, his numbers 69 percent in 2008 to 58 percent right now.

There are several likely reasons for this drop. With the economy still faltering, unemployment rates among Latinos hover above 11 percent, two points higher than the rest of the nation. Meanwhile, Obama has yet to advance the comprehensive immigration reform he spoke about in the 2008 campaign.

This is not a voting block any candidate wants to trifle with. Roughly 22 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible to vote in 2012. Seventy-five percent of the Latino population is concentrated in eight states, where their numbers reach or exceed 1 million: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, and Colorado.

Latino voters could decide several Congressional races in 2012, and maybe even the president if it gets close enough.

That’s why it is so critical for Obama to mobilize this base of support. Despite the dip in Obama’s approval ratings among Latinos, many will probably vote for Obama anyway. The question is: will they come out in big enough numbers to make a difference in battleground states.

If Obama really wants to reenergize these voters and get them to the polls, he needs to stand strong on something Latinos care deeply about: public health and the environment.

These are issues that cut close to home for many. Sixty-five percent of Latinos in the United States live in areas where the air is too polluted to meet federal public health standards. Fifteen percent live within 10 miles of a coal-fired power plant, one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the nation. Breathing air in these regions can lead to increased asthma attacks, bronchitis, cardiac disease, and cancer.

Most Latino voters view strong environmental safeguards and cleaner, more sustainable solutions as ways to protect their families. They will vote for leaders who fight for policies that bring safer air and cleaner water.

A poll of Latino voters across five western states found that 83 percent reject the false choice between protecting land, air, and water and having a good economy. The National Latino Coalition on Climate Change found that a majority of Latino respondents equated switching to clean energy with building a good economy.

Obama can win impassioned Latino support if he makes environment and public health a more central part of his platform. Many Latino leaders were deeply distressed when Obama abandoned stronger smog standards earlier this month. If he sides with polluters one too many times, he will fail to mobilize these critical voters.

But if he allows the EPA to continue releasing strong public health standards and if he keeps threatening to veto the dirty bills coming out of Congress, he can find common cause with the fastest growing population in the country.

Should Candidates Who Don’t Believe in Science Be Disqualified from Serving as President?

As the GOP candidates jockey their way toward the presidential nomination, they continue to create new litmus tests for what makes a worthy pick. The top contenders have to loathe government. They have to hate health care reform. And most deny the reality of climate change.

Most of these benchmarks have their roots in ideological battles but that last one is different. It requires candidates to forgo reality as they disavow scientific evidence.

I wonder how they choose which science to accept and which to ignore. Is it alright to acknowledge that gravity exists and cigarettes cause cancer, but not okay to concede that man made climate change is making the Arctic is melt and extreme weather events are becoming the norm? When do you cross the line? When does the crazy start? Most importantly, should ignoring science disqualify you from being president?

Having a president who willfully disregards the scientific evidence of a looming threat is not in our national interest, to put it mildly. I don’t think President Reagan would have gotten elected if he’d said he didn’t trust the data showing the Soviet Union had an enormous stockpile of nuclear weapons. We don’t need leaders who close their eyes to the facts.

But in this race, it’s not about the facts; it’s about speaking to the Tea Party crowd. And denying climate change offers candidates an irresistible trifecta. It allows them to belittle the science geeks and eggheads who might think they are smarter than ordinary folks. It gives them a chance to talk about government regulations—in the form of limits on carbon emissions—which gets their base all riled up. And it helps them keep the campaign donations from oil and coal companies rolling in.

Siding with the 3 percent of scientists who question climate change may play well with a small minority of hard-right voters, but it doesn’t serve the rest of us. There has always been a place in American society for the fringe dwellers—the religious zealots and the conspiracy theorists and the committed Luddites. But that place is not in the White House. Living in denial in the face of evidence isn’t a sign of leadership – it is a sign of delusion and it should disqualify you for serving as President.

There is also a healthy tradition of skepticism in America, but skepticism is not an excuse for inaction. It should be the beginning of a quest to find answers. If Representative Michelle Bachman doubts the existence of climate change, she should travel to the Arctic in the company of researchers. If Governor Perry doubts that the globe is warming, he should walk the scarred plains of Texas with those who have studied the links between climate change, more frequent droughts, and intensified wildfires.

The fact that they don’t journey to find the answers tells me they aren’t skeptics at all: they are just closed-minded. They don’t want to pursue new information or collect the facts on the ground. They want to stay within the confines of Tea Party ideology.

Casting doubt in and of itself shouldn’t disqualify you from becoming the president of the United States. But willfully rejecting the facts, when the consequences of doing so will be devastating, should.

 

 

 

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