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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wearing the "Green" Brand

There are positions a politician takes because they believe in them and positions they take because they're trendy. A presidential candidate not only needs to take the pulse of the nation, but needs to get his heart beating in unison with it. If you can't manage to regulate your heartbeat over an issue the electorate cares about, you can at least pretend to give a damn and hope the chumps will buy it.

This is John McCain's position on the environment and climate. He doesn't really give a damn either way, but he knows you do, so Baghdad Johnny's the "green" Republican. It's always been a weird coincidence to me that the electoral map puts the states the GOP candidate wins in red, since red -- if you look at a color wheel -- is pretty much the opposite of green. It's fitting for a party of flat earthers who still doubt global warming. A recent poll found that 74% of Republican lawmakers in Washington doubt that global warming has a human cause. Of course, this is the party that's home to creationists. Science isn't really their strong suit, because knowledge is elitist -- real Americans are ignorant as the day is long and damned proud of it, thank you very much. For the Republican party, the word "patriot" is synonymous with "has all the brains of a sack of hammers." If you're dumb, that's great. If you're willing to become dumber, you're a fine American. Just put on the stupid little flag pin and repeat after Rush.

Given how his party celebrates ignorance as an American value, while getting what little science they allow from industry lobbyists, we have good reason to doubt John McCain's verdancy. After all, how green can you possibly be when you surround yourself with Reds? The answer is "not very." When the vast majority of the people you talk to on a daily basis doubt climate science, it's pretty hard to be fully informed on the issue.

But the electorate is green, so John McCain is too. It's not so much a belief for McCain, as it is a fashion statement. When the trend is toward thinner lapels, you don't show up looking like a character in a gangster movie -- you wear thin lapels. It's not so much a matter of conviction as it is a statement of "me too!" When the fashion pendulum swings in the opposite direction, you're not going to fight the tide.

If we go to McCain's website, we find a bold statement of his commitment to wide lapels.

John McCain will establish a market-based system to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mobilize innovative technologies, and strengthen the economy. He will work with our international partners to secure our energy future, to create opportunities for American industry, and to leave a better future for our children.

Yessiree Bob, John McCain is green, green, green. Mostly because you are. When we get down to the details, though, Baghdad Johnny doesn't understand even his own position. Here's McCain on the environment:

Catch the fever! Is it just me or does John seem less than enthusiastic about all of this? I imagine a spotter just off camera ready to catch him if he falls asleep. At least he's got a lot of flags.

Of course, it doesn't help that McCain's position on environmental issues is "drill more." And, for the life of me, I can't figure out why he'd bring up his stupid "gas tax holiday" while talking about how he'll reduce our dependence of foreign oil. Since when has running a sale on a product reduced demand? McCain's "gas tax holiday" scheme would increase our dependence on foreign oil.

The idea that we can drill our way out of the problem is ridiculous. We just plain don't have as much oil laying around as we consume. We can drill every square inch of the US and not meet demand. Pretending we can isn't extremely helpful. And it doesn't really help to reduce greenhouse gases. This is like quitting smoking by growing your own tobacco.

But it isn't until we look at McCain's position on cap and trade that we really get to how phony his environmentalism is. From that same press conference:

QUESTION: The European Union has set mandatory targets on renewable energy. Is that something you would consider in a McCain administration? [...]

MCCAIN: Sure. I believe in the cap-and-trade system, as you know. I would not at this time make those -- impose a mandatory cap at this time. But I do believe that we have to establish targets for reductions of greenhouse gas emissions over time, and I think those can be met.

Let me see if I've got this straight, McCain's for cap and trade -- so long as we get rid of that whole "cap" part. Without a mandatory cap on emissions, there's no reason for anyone to do any carbon trading. It'd be a completely profit-free market, which doesn't make it extremely attractive for investors. Who's going to buy pollution?

Apparently, McCain's environmental issues page is pure BS -- it gets cap and trade right, but McCain disagrees with his own stated position. He doesn't support cap and trade, because he has no idea what it means. That web page is just some copy a PR guy wrote for him.

This isn't the first time McCain's gotten it wrong. In an interview with Greenwire, Baghdad Johnny said, "It's not quote mandatory caps. It's cap-and-trade, OK. It's not mandatory caps to start with. It's cap-and-trade. That's very different. OK, because that's a gradual reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. So please portray it as cap-and-trade. That's the way I call it."

That may be what you call it, but it's kind of like calling a house cat a circus peanut -- you're not exactly on the money there. What John McCain calls "cap and trade" isn't cap and trade at all. In fact, I don't have any idea what McCain's program is. I doubt he does either.

The Atlantic's Matthew Yglesias sums this up much better than I could. "Obviously the root of the issue here is that McCain doesn't understand anything about carbon policy and doesn't care about it either," he writes. "But he wanted to sign up for a 'centrist' solution on the sexy issue of climate change, so his staff came up with a plan. But 'mandatory cap' sounds like the lefty position, so McCain thinks he must not have it."

It doesn't have anything to do with anything McCain believes, it has to do with not showing up to the party wearing wide lapels. When it comes to the environment, McCain doesn't really give a damn. Which is why the right isn't freaking out over his "greenness." It's just a bandwagon position -- he doesn't really believe in it, he just wants the free ride.


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