Monday, July 26, 2010

Blogifying Monday: Leaks and Bleaks

The Big Noise of the day seems to be the Wikileaks on Afghanistan. Some compare it to the Pentagon Papers (or not), and the Tet Offensive. The White House points out that it's all about the years before Obama took office. And while the White House must officially condemn the release, my general attitude would be closer to John Kerry's. We'll be out of Iraq in a month. We should get out of Afghanistan ASAP.

There's been more negative reaction to the failure to bring forward climate/cap & trade legislation before congressional recess, especially among NYTimes columnists and in a NYT editorial. As I've said, I hoped for and expected more. It's easy enough to see the opportunity--the congressional numbers which are real unlikely to get better after the November elections, the attention-getting Gulf oil gusher and maybe above all, record heat in DC--surely God's vote. What may not be so easy to see are the no votes, cast in stone this close to the elections, that doomed it.

So I've got no problem with enviros and progressives decrying this lack of action, pointing out its dangers and calling for renewed efforts. And I even understand initial expressions of anger against the Administration as well as Congressional leadership and--incidentially--the GOPer Senators who actually prevented this legislation. But there are continuing modes of attack that are counterproductive, if not destructive. I'm saddened that Joe Romm at Climate Progress is placing himself in that category, with his blanket smear of Obama as a failed President.

It's a delicate dance, passionately urging change from outside and from "the left" to use a barely accurate cliche, on an Administration that basically agrees with you. The danger is poisoning support and contributing to a political weakening that emboldens the opposition and increases the likelihood of them taking power. The GOPers have already announced that among their top priorities "when" they take over Congress is defeating anything with the faintest aroma of climate crisis legislation, or support of clean energy.

You should give this kind of aid and comfort to the enemy only when you are convinced that your president is politically and morally done. We made that calculation about LBJ with good reason, and even at that, we wound up with Nixon and 6 more years of war.

I don't believe that of Obama. And I believe that the book hasn't closed on his activity on this issue. Would it have been better not to have left this crucial climate and energy bill to the end? Sure. It would have been much better if the GOPers hadn't timed their Great Recession with such precision, and virtually bankrupt the federal government as well. So do you want to tell people who now will have health care or a job that their needs aren't as important? Maybe I would, but I'm not President of the United States.

I have no doubt that the Climate Crisis is the most important issue of our time, and that, figuring impact and likelihood of that impact, it poses the greatest threat to human civilization, dwarfing other political issues. But where this climate bill fits into that is what's questionable to me. Maybe if this were a year ago, I would feel worse, because I would have believed that it was very important to pass this legislation at this time. But after reading new books by David Orr and Bill McKibben, I've kept my eyes open, and realized that many if not most reputable scientists and observers agree with them.

That is, it may have been possible for me to believe that there was a chance that civilization could make a smooth and relatively safe transition to the future if the U.S. passed strong Climate Crisis laws, and led the world to do the same. But it's very likely too late for that. The future, whatever it's going to be, is already decided for the next forty years, and it's probably going to be catastrophic. The far future may or may not have been decided yet, so maybe there's time to head off the worst. But this legislation wasn't strong enough to do that anyway.

This legislation--or something like it--may yet pass before the end of the year. But the time to head off catastrophic change was probably in 1976, or maybe 1992, or no later really than the election of 2000, when it "didn't matter" who won, Bore or Gush. The vast weight of industrial capitalism, and in recent decades of a vicious oligarchy leading the U.S. down into decadence and denial, are the forces of history that we still must oppose. But when we don't defeat them on a given issue, is that a surprise? Is that the reason to self-destruct?

Joe Romm may want to add to the defeatism that has Glenn Beck and the congressional GOPers gloating. I think it's politically dumb, historically myopic, as well as self-indulgent. I prefer to listen to people like Van Jones (also here) and Bill McKibben. But I am upset that Climate Progress is not a haven of sanity anymore.

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