Deny the anti-conservative positions he has taken, offer strong arguments against them—and hope to run out the clock on those who would draw attention to his calculation
Newt’s New Strategy: Hide in Plain Sight
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As of 2008, Newt Gingrich’s position on the science of global warming was essentially the same as Al Gore’s. True, he was advocating supposedly “conservative” solutions, as opposed to Gore’s expressly UN-oriented agenda. And of course no one is capable of sounding as moronically maniacal as Gore. Nevertheless, regarding the basic ‘theory’—that human activity is leading to a significant and potentially catastrophic alteration of Earth’s climate—they were absolutely of one mind.
In a previous article, “A Newt for All Seasons,” I explained in detail how the dynamic of this year’s primary race has favored the articulate, acerbic underdog, leading to his sudden rise in favor, as though Republicans nervous about Herman Cain’s personal history had simply turned up the next card, and found Newt. It is therefore vital that conservatives taking a second look at the former Speaker ask him—and themselves—the hard questions about his own history.
There is urgency in this matter, for a reason peculiar to Gingrich’s particular set of ‘issues’. Herman Cain’s supposed indiscretions are of a sort that could, and of course would, be exploited by Democrats and liberals in general, should he win the Republican nomination. The most serious concerns about Gingrich, on the contrary, are matters that can only be addressed during the primaries.
Aside from charges of hypocrisy, which could be used in a presidential race to undermine his support from conservatives, the biggest problem with his recent history is the extent to which he is guilty of pandering to—or even worse, actually agreeing with—leftists. This, then, is a concern that must be raised now, before it is too late, i.e. before he wins the nomination and thereby effectively silences all conservative objections until at least November 7th, 2012. And on no issue is this examination more imperative than the question of climate change.
On November 16th, 2011, Gingrich appeared on the Mark Levin Show. Levin’s first question was very direct and straightforward. Gingrich’s response was, to be polite, obfuscation. Here is the exchange:
ML: Global warming—yes, no, or you don’t know?
NG: I think, I think that I don’t know, but I do know that I’m opposed to cap-and-trade, and I’m opposed to any kind of massive government response. I think there’s no evidence that justifies a large government centralized response of any kind right now. The most you can argue for, I think, is more research.
Let’s compare this directly to Gingrich’s past statements on this issue. As I have described in my previous article cited above, in 2007 he stood on a stage with John Kerry, one of the Senate’s leaders on this pseudo-issue. In a direct, prepared response to Kerry’s staged question about how to answer those in the Senate who resist the science of global warming, Gingrich said, “the evidence is sufficient that we should move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon-loading in the atmosphere.” To Kerry’s follow-up ‘question’ as to whether these steps ought to be taken “urgently,” Gingrich replied, “And do it urgently. Yes.”
When he said “do it urgently,” what was the “it” he was referring to? More research? And when he said “the evidence is sufficient that we should move… to reduce carbon-loading in the atmosphere,” was this merely an alternative way of saying, “I think that I don’t know”?
Gingrich’s choice of words
Pay close attention, further, to this most articulate man’s choice of words, as he tells Levin that “there’s no evidence that justifies a large government centralized response of any kind right now.” What does he mean by “right now”? Is he suggesting that there might be sufficient reason for such action in the future? And if so, when? In addition, if a “large government centralized response” is not justified (yet), how about a small or medium-sized centralized government response? And how do we know, exactly, when a government response is “large”? Okay, so it’s ‘no’ to cap-and-trade. What about other actions, such as the EPA’s various assaults on individual liberty? Which ones are ‘too big,’ on this new Gingrich standard?
Indeed, if he does accept the Gore/Kerry position on the science, as he certainly did three years ago, then how does he justify his rejection of a large government response? The argument for such a response—or, what’s more, for a global, i.e. supranational response—is that this is a problem that cannot be solved by private, localized action, and that cannot be deferred until market forces come around to finding solutions. And if the science were true, the centralized response proponents would have a point. After all, if the long-term survival of a nation and its people were at stake, and specific types of human activity could be identified as the cause of this danger, then wouldn’t resisting immediate government action related to those activities be analogous to refusing to give the government authority to defend the nation against a known, approaching enemy?
The appearance with Kerry is merely one example, of course. Then came Gingrich’s 2008 public service announcement alongside then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, paid for by The Alliance For Climate Protection, an organization founded by none other than Al Gore. Sitting on a sofa with the U.S. Capitol in the background, smiling at one another, all but holding hands, Pelosi and Gingrich told viewers about the importance of addressing the climate change problem. Here is the script Gingrich read into the camera:
“... [W]e do agree our country must take action to address climate change…. If enough of us demand action from our leaders, we can spark the innovation we need.”
What action do we need, and why must we demand it, if, as he told Mark Levin, the most the evidence provides grounds for is “more research”?
Lest it be argued in Gingrich’s defence that ‘back then’, a lot of people were caught up in the climate change nonsense, whereas now things are clearer for the rational observers among us, keep in mind the following:
First of all, ‘back then’, in this case, means 2008. Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006, won its Oscar in February of 2007, and Gore, along with the UN’s IPCC, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December of that same year. Global warming was all the rage as a liberal issue, to be sure. However, the debunking of global warming was also in full swing. By May 2008, more than 30,000 scientists (including over 9,000 Ph.D.s) had signed a petition rejecting the “settled science” of anthropogenic global warming. Conservative commentators of all sorts had been tackling the matter directly. Battle lines on the issue had been clearly drawn, and the direct link between the science and politics of climate was readily apparent, as symbolized by the UN’s IPCC, a panel made up of a combination of diplomats and scientists, which releases summary reports that expressly omit or bury the dissenting voices within the panel itself. No one as informed and connected to the political scene as the former Speaker could have failed to know this. Hence, his support of the science was not merely an acceptance of a mainstream idea that had yet to be questioned.
Secondly, the simplest tracing of the history of global climate change/warming/cooling reveals that at each stage of the narrative, the scientific claims were tied to specific or general policy proposals—proposals of an explicitly anti-industrial, anti-capitalist, and internationalist nature. Gingrich’s pretense, in his appearance with Kerry, of separating the science from the liberal agenda is bizarrely naive if it is not disingenuous. The science is, and always was, primarily a pretext for the agenda.
(This is not to say that every professional researcher who seeks to present supporting evidence for the AGW hypothesis is a leftist. Most scholars in any field are people who accept the presuppositions set before them as they enter that field. In fact, such acceptance is usually necessary for the sake of professional advancement, in addition to being the path of least resistance for an unoriginal thinker working in an intellectual setting. Every academic paradigm needs its worker bees. This includes politically-motivated academic paradigms.)
Perhaps I have taken the wrong tack on Gingrich’s global warming position. Perhaps he really doesn’t believe in it at all, in which case he was merely dissembling and pandering to liberals and independents when he staged that ‘green conservatism’ appearance with Kerry, or smiled smarmily at Pelosi in that 2008 public service announcement. There is a deeper issue here, regarding Gingrich’s motives and purposes. His coming-out party on climate change was not a small, personal decision which happened to find its way into an interview somewhere. As I have noted, it was a grand, planned event. He used the appearance with Kerry to stage an applause line, just as he has so effectively done during this year’s debates. Both then and now, he has been careful to orchestrate his crowd-pleasing moments so as to seem to be attacking an enemy shared with both the audience and the putative debate opponents on the stage with him. In 2007, it was Kerry, who nodded with sober approval as Gingrich embraced the science of global warming, and a liberal audience, who clapped and shouted their appreciation for his ‘enlightened’ position. In 2011, it is his Republican debate opponents, who nod or laugh on cue, and the audience of Republican voters, who cheer him on, as he eviscerates a common enemy, be it the liberal moderators or President Obama.
What has changed since 2008 is not the availability of opportunities to educate oneself about the science and political history of anthropogenic global warming. What has changed, to put it simply, is the American conservative movement. The difference, to put it even more simply, is the Tea Party. Three years ago, Washington insiders—of whom Gingrich is obviously one—saw the Republicans’ prospects as bleak. They were somewhat directionless, spineless, and, in the waning, unpopular moments of the Bush administration, powerless. They were looking at, and talking about, a generational climb back into majority status in the nation, and in Congress.
In that climate, Gingrich’s prominent photo-ops with important liberal Democrats—Kerry, who had recently received 48% of the popular vote in a presidential election, and Pelosi, the most progressive House Speaker in history—along with his decision to align himself, albeit provisionally, with Al Gore, the popular hero of campus leftists and UN stooges—was a reasonable, if cynical, course for a famously controversial Republican seeking to redefine his image. After the 2010 midterm elections, it became clear to anyone with Gingrich’s experience and wiles that no one could hope to gain the Republican nomination without attracting support from some of the Tea Partiers, and forbearance from the rest. Hence the outright rejection of his own past declarations on global warming. Newt the “green conservative” is no more. The same is true on the individual mandate, his consultancy for Freddie Mac, and even his more recent trashing of Paul Ryan’s budget bill.
In his November 16th interview with Levin, he defended the nature of his consulting work in this way: “[W]e said flatly from day one… I will not take any client who has a position that I don’t agree with, because my position was, if you want to come to me for advice, that’s fine, I’ll give you advice. But any position that I take in public is a position I personally believe.”
That strong statement of principle would be a lot easier to make if one felt that one could just “believe” anything that happened to be convenient at any given moment, and then, if it should become inconvenient, suddenly “believe” the opposite.
Global warming: either he’s lying now, to win over conservatives, or he was lying then, to win over liberals
Gingrich’s campaign strategy from this point on is clear, and is demonstrated in his appearance with Levin: deny the anti-conservative positions he has taken—indeed, offer strong arguments against them—and hope to run out the clock on those who would draw attention to his calculation.
With regard to global warming, at least, either he’s lying now, to win over conservatives, or he was lying then, to win over liberals. Which one is better? Which kind of dissembler do you prefer as the Republican nominee: one who pretended to accept the leftist/globalist agenda’s primary theoretical weapon of the moment, or one who really does accept it, but pretends not to when he sees the Tea Party as his surest path to power?