An ongoing discussion of politics, law, pop culture, and fine draperies.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Moderates Coming Around on Global Warming and "Who is John McCain?"

The global warming film "An Inconvenient Truth" "opens nationwide today, raising the political stakes for politicians and commentators who oppose regulation of greenhouse gases.

The film star and former veep Al Gore took the brazen step on Sunday of inviting President Bush to watch the global warming film, "An Inconvenient Truth" with him. Salon writer Andrew O'Hehir cuts to the chase. Newsweek's Howard Fineman snipes and whines as usual.

Meanwhile, Gore's denials continue. Yeah, yeah, yeah …

Today's New York Times provided a venue for a major intellectual coup of sorts. Legal commentator (and Tuesday Morning QB) Gregg Easterbrook wrote today that "the science has changed from ambiguous to near-unanimous," adding that while "[a]s an environmental commentator, I have a long record of opposing alarmism … [but am] now switching sides regarding global warming, from skeptic to convert." Easterbrook shoots a few dead horses, i.e. ripping the Kyoto Protocol as "cumbersome" and easily ignored, but he curiously recommends a cap-and-trade program whereby greenhouse gas emissions are commodified and traded among polluters:
But a system of tradable greenhouse permits, similar to those for acid rain,
would create a profit incentive. Engineers and entrepreneurs would turn to the
problem. Someone might even invent something cheap that would spread to the
poorer countries, preventing reductions here from being swamped elsewhere.
Unlikely? Right now reformulated gasoline and the low-cost catalytic converter,
invented here to contain smog, are becoming common in developing nations.

In the words of Chuck D., "Can I get a witness?"

Ironically, the Kyoto Process already includes an emissions-trading program thanks in large part to the Clinton Administration's negotiating team who demanded such compliance mechanisms as a condition for American support. Of course, when President Bush declared the Kyoto process dead and removed the U.S. from the bargaining table, the U.S. lost a voice in proactively shaping global greenhouse gas mitigation technology. Ten-plus years later, we are further, not closer to taking any meaningful steps toward minimizing the effects of global warming on human history. Yet, those who applauded Bush's Kyoto withdrawal are now lamenting that the Protocol's provisions didn't take effect soon enough. Well, which way is it, boys? I suppose "better late than never" applies, but I don't have to like it.

McCain teaser

My man Ted from South Bend sent me this link today, describing the gyrations being performed by Sen. John McCain as he limbers up for the big race in 2008.

I need to play coy here, because I have been thinking about McCain in a new light – inspired in part by a discussion I had with Speedway Tim and Timeshare John last week. Tim, a devoted administrative state liberal, is among the legions of Democrats who are seriously considering a McCain vote if he gets the G.O.P. nod. This got me to thinking about the kind of president McCain would be in Stephen Skowronek's matrix of Presidential history. I touched on some of the Skowronek thesis here, but only in the context of the politics of reconstruction and articulation.

Fleshing this out will require quite a bit of writing, re-writing, and linking, which, sufficed to say is more than I can offer today. However, I will tease thee by suggesting that, if elected President in 2008, McCain will struggle to maintain any mandate he brings to the White House. Look for attacks the right wing will bring upon him for failing the Republican, New Federalist and social conservative causes. Meanwhile, the center-left will feel betrayed for their assent to his leadership because he will fail to deliver the policy initiatives that they expected would flow from his incumbency. In short, John McCain will become Jimmy Carter.

Consider what Wikipedia reports that "Lawrence Shoup noted in his 1980 book The Carter Presidency And Beyond:
What Carter had that his opponents did not was the acceptance and support of
elite sectors of the mass communications media. It was their favorable coverage
of Carter and his campaign that gave him an edge, propelling him rocket-like to
the top of the opinion polls. This helped Carter win key primary election
victories, enabling him to rise from an obscure public figure to President-elect
in the short space of 9 months.

In 1974, Jimmy Carter coyly presented himself for the first time to the political media/elite as a national figure at the Law Day presentation at University of Georgia. His speech dwarfed those given by keynote invitee Sen. Ted Kennedy (then the heir apparent to the 1976 nomination) and former Sec. of State Dean Rusk. Hunter S. Thompson attended the event to cover Kennedy, but left that day so inspired by Carter that he helped catapult the Governor to national attention, as Shoup described. The article, "Jimmy Carter and the Great Leap of Faith" appeared in Rolling Stone and is included in Thompson's collection, The Great Shark Hunt. Carter described the inherent workability of the existing system, i.e. the New Deal/Great Society administrative state, but said that its success required a re-focus on the folks served, rather than the servants. He recalled "War and Peace," in which Tolstoy:

didn't write the book about Napoleon or the Czar of Russia or even the generals,
except in a rare occasion. He wrote it about the students and the housewives and
the barbers and the farmers and the privates in the army. And the point of the book is that the course of human events, even the greatest historical events, are not determined by the leaders of a nation or a state, like Presidents or governors or senators. They are controlled by the combined wisdom and courage
and commitment and discernment and unselfishness and compassion and love and
idealism of the common ordinary people. If that was true in the case of Russia where they had a czar or France where they had an emperor, how much more true is it in our own case where the Constitution charges us with a direct responsibility for determining what our government is and ought to be?

Well, I've read parts of the embarrassing transcripts, and I've seen the proud statement of a former attorney general, who protected his boss,
and now brags on the fact that he tiptoed through a mine field and came out
"clean." I can't imagine somebody like Thomas Jefferson tiptoeing through a mine
field on the technicalities of the law, and then bragging about being clean afterwards.

I think our people demand more than that. I believe that everyone in this room who is in a position of responsibility as a preserver of the law in its purest form ought to remember the oath that Thomas Jefferson and others took when they practically signed their own death warrant, writing the Declaration of Independence - to preserve justice and equity and freedom and fairness, they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

Tinkering with a corrupted political system. That was Carter's message.

Sound familiar? Think about McCain. He lauds Reagan's vision left and right, but disagrees with how it has evolved under the watch of the religious conservatives and the neo-conservatives who control foreign policy.

Many more familiarities will be revealed in our next installment. This I promise, covenant and vow …


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