Friday, November 18, 2011

Gingrich's Climate Change Reversal is Not at All "Inexplicable"

Until very recently, it's been easy to ignore the two Catholic Republicans running for president. That's largely because Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum so tidily fit the stereotype of conservative Catholics: faithful to the Church on social issues, and at odds with the Church on just about everything else. Add to this cliché the fact that neither will be the next president, and it becomes difficult to gather the inertia to pay them serious attention.
     But now that recent polling has confirmed Gingrich's status as the right's flavor-of-the-month, his questionable character and penchant for making objectionable statements take on added import.
     While earning the distinction of 'the intellectual' amongst a field of candidates like Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Michelle Bachmann may be somewhat dubious, the former House speaker did demonstrate passing intelligence (and decency) when he urged bold action on climate change in this 2008 ad with Nancy Pelosi:

     Last week, however, Gingrich seemed markedly less brilliant as he tried to explain this conservative heresy on Fox News:

     His explanation for the "the dumbest single thing" he's done is that it was simply "inexplicable." But the decision to film a commercial advocating-- alongside a political nemesis--a policy violently at odds with a majority in your party is not the result of a momentary lapse in judgment. It's a decidedly deliberate decision--and actually quite explicable.
     Gingrich is an intelligent human being who, when unbound by the pressure of appealing to an anti-science conservative base, is capable of seeing what is demonstrably true: that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is substantially contributing to a markedly warming planet. Gingrich rightly points out that the "vast majority" of the National Academy of Sciences' members hold this view; he could have also mentioned the plethora of other national science academies that concur, or made note of the lack of a single national or international body that dissents. In any case, there is no rational cause for the 99% of us who are non-experts in climate science to deny the probability that the experts are right.
     This is why Gingrich made the ad with Pelosi. It is why John Huntsman advocates this position even though it reduces to zero his chances of making a plausible run for the Republican nomination. It is why Mitt Romney and (former candidate) Tim Pawlenty once advocated regional cap and trade programs. Like Gingrich, they've subsequently seen the light.
     Gingrich will never reclaim the power he once held as Speaker of the House, but if he tells the truth about his noble motivation for making this ad, he can recover some of his integrity.

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