Wednesday, November 25, 2009

There be Dragons

TimF.: Sign O’ The Times

Ross Douthat dreams of a Republican who understands and can talk about policy. Just imagine. For a change Sunday newschat shows might cover actual issues instead of serving as group therapy sessions for stupid angry people like John McCain, Eric Cantor and Joe Lieberman. The dirty little secret of DC is that nobody presses these guys on policy because they can’t possibly handle it. They oppose Obama policy because pancake rainbow phlogiston wolverines.

As long as we’re dreaming I’ll take my magical flying pony with the feature that makes it poop dollar bills. Plus flame breath to fight the dragons.


The good news is, most Americans acknowledge the reality of climate change; accept that it's a serious problem; and support efforts, such as cap and trade, to address the crisis.

The bad news is, like practically everything else of late, it's become a partisan issue in which the American mainstream has one set of beliefs, and Republicans have an entirely different reality.

The percentage of Americans who believe global warming is happening has dipped from 80 to 72 percent in the past year, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, even as a majority still support a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

The poll's findings -- which also show that 55 percent of respondents think the United States should curb its carbon output even if major developing nations such as China and India do less -- suggest increasing political polarization around the issue, just as the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are intensifying efforts to pass climate legislation and broker an international global warming pact.

The increase in climate skepticism is driven largely by a shift within the GOP. Since its peak 3 1/2 years ago, belief that climate change is happening is down sharply among Republicans -- 76 to 54 percent -- and independents -- 86 to 71 percent. It dipped more modestly among Democrats, from 92 to 86 percent.

That there was any drop at all is discouraging. The problem grows more severe with each passing year, and policymakers are more inclined to take necessary actions if they feel like they're responding to public demand. The more people reject reality, the more likely politicians will put off hard work.

In this case, the discouraging results are compounded by the simplicity of the poll question itself. As Kevin noted, "[T]his isn't a drop in conservatives who think that global warming is manmade. It's not a drop in the number who think it will continue in the future. It's not a drop in the number who think it's too expensive to do anything about it. The question ABC asked was whether or not temperatures had increased over the past hundred years. It's a simple factual question like asking if the Allies won World War I. But only a bare majority of conservatives believe it. It's Jim Inhofe's party now."

As this relates to legislation pending in Congress, there was one encouraging result -- a 53% majority supports a cap-and-trade proposal. The results on this question have improved ever so slightly over the last several months.

On a related note, Thomas Friedman had a good column on all of this last week, explaining why even the most reason-resistant conservatives should take energy policy seriously: "[Y[ou don't believe in global warming? You're wrong, but I'll let you enjoy it until your beach house gets washed away. But if you also don't believe the world is getting more crowded with more aspiring Americans -- and that ignoring that will play to the strength of our worst enemies, while responding to it with clean energy will play to the strength of our best technologies -- then you're willfully blind, and you're hurting America's future to boot."


The struggle continues -- is the wiser course of action ignoring Sarah Palin because she's a foolish clown undeserving of attention, or shining a light on her offensive antics to help demonstrate the misguided inanities of the larger right-wing movement?

I generally lean towards the former, but some of the former half-term governor's misdeeds are too odious to overlook. Like this one, for example.

Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday accused President Barack Obama of not acknowledging the sacrifices made by the men and women in the U.S. military.

"There's been a lack of acknowledgment by our president in understanding what it is that the American military provides in terms of, obviously, the safety, the security of our country," Palin said during an interview with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren. "I want him to acknowledge the sacrifices that these individual men and women -- our sons, our daughters, our moms, our dads, our brothers and sisters -- are providing this country to keep us safe."

"They're making sacrifices," said Palin, who visited the Army base at Fort Bragg on Monday as part of her ongoing book tour. "They're putting so much on hold right now so that the homeland can be safe and they can fight for democratic ideals around our world. I want to see more acknowledgment and more respect given to them."

Asked specifically what she'd like to see more of from Obama, Palin said, "I want to see them equipped. I want to see them given everything that they need, including strategies -- a surge strategy in Afghanistan, for one -- so that they know that they're there for victory, they're not there just biding their time as lives are being lost."

Even for Palin, this is vile. "There's been a lack of acknowledgment by our president in understanding what it is that the American military provides in terms of, obviously, the safety, the security of our country"? I'm not entirely sure she's trying to say here, or what it is she thinks the president has failed to "acknowledge."

But in Grown-Up Land, the Commander in Chief has honored the service and sacrifices of servicemen and women repeatedly. He did so at Dover Air Force Base last month; just as he did at Fort Hood and on Veterans' Day this month. Obama, in just the past few weeks, has met with U.S. troops in Florida, Alaska, Texas, and in South Korea.

Also note, Palin, who has never demonstrated any meaningful understanding of foreign policy at any level -- look, Sarah, there's Putin flying over your house -- can't criticize the administration's efforts on a substantive level, so she complains for no reason about her misguided sense of "strategies."

In other words, we can add this to the very long list of subjects on which Sarah Palin pops off without having a clue what she's talking about.

John Cole added, "What a detestable human being.... I'm seriously so sick and tired of these people. Visit the troops and you are accused of using them as a photo op. Spend one day not genuflecting to the troops, you are accused of ignoring them."

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