Back in the run up to the 2008 elections, I observed that Barack Obama seemed to have taken a major leaf out of Tony Blair’s spinbook – try as much as possible to be all things to all people while leaving yourself wiggle room (“maintain my options” as Obama put it on preserving renditions and on his secret kill list) to do or not do stuff and still be able to say whatever happens is what you promised would happen.
Right now, he’s displaying his Blair-esque talent for verbal tightrope walking on the issue of climate change, as Columbia Journalism Review neatly illustrates.
At his first post-election press conference on Wednesday, President Obama talked about his current position on climate change in greater detail than he’s done in two years. News outlets’ attempts to interpret the meaning of his remarks produced bewilderingly disparate takes, however, whether that involved Obama’s personal commitment to addressing the issue:
Or his legislative prioritizing:
The problem, as journalist Keith Kloor observed in a nice roundup of the coverage, was that what Obama said was “likely reassuring, encouraging, and infuriating—all at once—to the climate concerned community.”
Obama said he’s a “firm believer” in climate change and that “we’ve got an obligation” to do something about it, but he conceded that it would be politically difficult and that any measures would have to fit within the framework of economic growth and jobs creation.
This despite the fact that already middle- and lower-income Americans are disproportionately harmed by extreme weather events which have cost the nation $174 billion in the last two years alone, according to the latest CAP report, and despite every analyst from the Pentagon’s own planners down saying that climate change is one of the major national security threats the nation faces in the next decade and further.
It’d be nice to have some actual leadership, instead of political posturing with one hand always covering the President’s own ass, in the face of Republican intransigence. As CJR points out, “the Republicans in the running to chair the House Science, Space and Technology Committee reject even the fundamentals of climate change.”
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