Tag archive for Obama

For Earth Day, Obama goes to Florida

Prez Obama appears to be really trying to reach the public re: climate change. He gave his usual good speech about the subject on Earth Day, but this one suspects his most convincing point on climate change may be a simple recitation of some personal facts. 

As he said yesterday:

Just last weekend, Michelle and I took the girls for a hike in a national park… As we were walking a trail along the Everglades, we saw a group of school kids — couldn’t have been more excited about mostly seeing the gators, not seeing me — (laughter) — but also learning about the science of the planet that they live on.  And I want every child to have that opportunity.

So starting this fall, we’re going to give every fourth grader in America an “Every Kid In A Park” pass, and that’s a pass good for free admission to all our public lands for you, your families for an entire year.  (Applause.)  Because no matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters — these places are your birthright as Americans. 

And today, I’m designating America’s newest national historic landmark, the Marjory Stoneham Douglas House in Miami, so that future generations will know how this amazing woman helped conserve the Everglades for all of us.  (Applause.) 

We all have a stake in the future — that's his point, which may benefit from going mostly unstated. 

Obama also can be pretty blunt, as in his speech yesterday, chiding Florida for not letting state officials discuss climate change. (They've denied the charge, but it's been documented.) 

Tom Toles sketched his take on the subject, which he left as an outtake — but it's still worth citing. 


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Obama mocks GOP climate change deniers

Weird. Read closely, it almost sounds as if the House Speaker, a Republican, is admitting that climate change is happening, and we need to deal with it, but we can’t use pollution control regulations.

What's the best way to combat a ridiculous but damaging idea?

Ridicule. And even though — as Gail Collins pointed out in what is surely the most amusingly brilliant political column of the year to date — we as a culture have kind of lost interest in Barack Obama as an individual, he's still the president. 

Barack Obama is universally known, but these days, if you have a conversation at the dinner table about him, the real topic is going to be something like health care or the unemployment rate. We’re so aware of his enormous responsibilities, we’ve sort of lost interest in Obama as a person. He may try to be diverting with the odd comment about sports or his dog, but, really, it doesn’t work.

Well, he may not be all that interesting a person these days, but he's still able to get attention when he gives a speech, and when he mocks his political opponent almost to their face, he still makes the news — including FOX News.

Calling climate change deniers the radical fringe, he said: 

Now, part of what’s unique about climate change, though, is the nature of some of the opposition to action.  It’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist.  When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long.  But nobody ignored the science.  I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.  (Laughter.)

And today’s Congress, though, is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence about climate change.  They will tell you it is a hoax, or a fad.  One member of Congress actually says the world is cooling.  There was one member of Congress who mentioned a theory involving “dinosaur flatulence” — which I won’t get into.  (Laughter.)

Now, their view may be wrong — and a fairly serious threat to everybody’s future — but at least they have the brass to say what they actually think.  There are some who also duck the question.  They say — when they’re asked about climate change, they say, “Hey, look, I’m not a scientist.”  And I’ll translate that for you.  What that really means is, “I know that manmade climate change really is happening, but if I admit it, I’ll be run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot, so I’m not going to admit it.”  (Applause.)


Obama called John Boehner a liar to his face — almost. On May 30th, John Boehner, Republican, Speaker of the House, the president's most prominent political opponent, as widely quoted when he said:

“Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change.” 

Having backpedaled away from the issue, as a scientist pointed out, while implying there was a debate in the science, Boehner then went on to claim that regulating power plants would ruin the economy, which must remain paramount over "changes to our environment." 

Weird. Read closely, it almost sounds as if Boehner is admitting that climate change is happening, and we need to deal with it, but of course we can't use pollution control regulations

Leaving the science and the fate of the planet aside, Is that really a good argument? 

Could the fact that 70 percent of people polled on this subject said global warming was a "very serious" problem, supported carbon dioxide regulation, and declared their willingess to pay higher bills to reduce emissions in an ABC/Washington Post poll be embarrassing the GOP into admitting its ignorance? 

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McClatchy: Obama launches war on coal

Commentary on Obama's big climate speech of a couple of weeks ago — which Al Gore called the best speech ever given on the topic by a president, but which was completely eclipsed by the Supreme Court just hours later — was nonetheless fascinating. The McClatchy chain of newspapers focused in its lead on the negative, which is often the case with newspapers, and may be appropriate politcally speaking:

President Barack Obama’s plan to curb climate change could transform
American energy, potentially dealing a blow to the coal-fired power
that supply much of the nation’s electricity but also pump
planet-warming gases into the atmosphere.

Obama rolled out his long-awaited plan in a speech
Tuesday that outlined broad goals but left the specifics to be worked
out over the coming months.

“The question now is whether we will
have the courage to act before it is too late,” he said in a speech at
Georgetown University. “And how we answer will have a profound impact on
the world we leave behind, not just to you but to your children and
your grandchildren.”


In any case, the "war on coal" formulation seems to be accepted by much of the media, from FOX News on the right to Politico in the center of the beltway.

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Obama in Berlin calls for action on climate (allegedly)

Today on a 91-degree day in Berlin, Obama makes what has been described by the NYTimes and many others as a major speech on climate. Here's what he said on the subject:

Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet. The efforts to slow climate change requires bold action, and on this, Germany and Europe have led. In the United States, we have recently doubled our renewable energy from clean sources, like wind and solar power. We're doubling fuel efficiency on our cars. Our dangerous carbon emissions have come down, but we know we have to do more. And we will do more.


OBAMA: With a global middle class consuming more energy every day, this must now be an effort of all nations, not just some, for the grim alternative affects all nations: more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coast lines that vanish, oceans that rise.

This is the future we must avert. This is the global threat of our time. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late. That is our job. That is our task. 


We have to get to work.

All well and good, but the the climate part of the speech adds up to 182 words, while the speech — on the broad theme of peace and justice — totals 3291 words.

So climate adds up to about 6% of the content of the "major speech" on climate. 

John Broder in the Times promises that the White House will soon hand down new regulations on power plant emissions, in an A1 story for today:

President Obama is preparing regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, senior officials said Wednesday. The move would be the most consequential climate policy step he could take and one likely to provoke legal challenges from Republicans and some industries.

Electric power plants are the largest single source of global warming pollution in the country, responsible for nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. With sweeping climate legislation effectively dead in Congress, the decision on existing power plants — which a 2007 Supreme Court decision gave to the executive branch — has been among the most closely watched of Mr. Obama’s second term.

The administration has already begun steps to restrict climate-altering emissions from any newly built power plants, but imposing carbon standards on the existing utility fleet would be vastly more costly and contentious.

The president is preparing to move soon because rules as complex as those applying to power plants can take years to complete. Experts say that if Mr. Obama hopes to have a new set of greenhouse gas standards for utilities in place before he leaves office he needs to begin before the end of this year. 

Let's hope he lives up to his aides' promises. Based on his record, one has to wonder. 

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Obama quails on Keystone XL: Poll shows why

Looks like Obama intends to back down and let Keystone XL bitumen pipeline go through.

From the NY Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — Appearing at the home of an outspoken critic of the Keystone XL pipelinePresident Obama on Wednesday night told a group of high-dollar donors that the politics of the environment “are tough.”

Mr. Obama appears to be leaning toward the approval of the pipeline, although he did not specifically mention it to the donors. But he acknowledged that it is hard to sell aggressive environmental action — like reducing pollution from power plants — to Americans who are still struggling in a difficult economy to pay bills, buy gas and save for retirement.

“You may be concerned about the temperature of the planet, but it’s probably not rising to your No. 1 concern,” Mr. Obama said. “And if people think, well, that’s shortsighted, that’s what happens when you’re struggling to get by.”

Maybe the Prez saw this poll from Pew Research: 


And maybe it's not a coincidence that this past week James Hansen decided he had to quit his job working for the federal government, and this today argued fiercely against the pipeline:

The perspective of pipeline apologists is contrary to the laws of physics and basic economics, neither of which gives a damn about politics. [edit]

The science on climate change has been in for a quarter of a century. There are no more mixed messages, just catastrophe after catastrophe. The president stands at a fork in the road: Rejecting the pipeline will show the world we are serious and determined to be on the right side of history. Approving it will signal we are too entrenched with business-as-usual to do what's right by the people, planet and future generations.

Meanwhile atop the NY Times, a disturbing story from perhaps the second best-known of all climate scientists, Lonnie Thompson, on the rapid melting of an ice cap in Peru. 

Glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took at least 1,600 years to form has melted in just 25 years, scientists reported Thursday, the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance.

It's much more than Obama's legacy that hangs in the balance. Regrettably. 


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President Obama talks climate: 12 hottest years, in last 15

The earth’s getting warmer: “Yes, it’s true that no
single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on
record have all come in the last 15.” President Obama, in the State of the Union Address:

You can see that in NOAA’s record of global temperatures.

From Ezra Klein's Wonkblog. Weather nerds will note how much colder La Niña years once were, compared to neutral or El Niño years — but not today. 

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Obama promises action on warming in 2nd Inaugural

In his second Inaugural Address this morning, President Obama promised action on climate change

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not
just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat
of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our
children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming
judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging
fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path
towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.
But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot
cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new
industries — we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our
economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and
waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will
preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend
meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

As veteran political observer Ronald Brownstein tweeted, this is a logical step:

After contraception, dreamers, gay marriage, immigration +guns, climate next logical step for a prez who won w/out non-col + rural whites

But as Philip Bump pointed out for Grist, it's also a step the President hasn't taken before. Shortly after the election, Obama's rhetoric on the issue was about "tough choices," not the necessity for action. 

Bump writes:

It is fair to find this [change] heartening. It is the strongest, broadest
argument for responsible stewardship of the planet: that we have an
obligation to the future.

In a Twitter discussion about this question, Andrew Revkin was heavily criticized by climatologist Michael Mann, among others, for not being blunter about calling a denier a denier. (Revkin thinks that's not helpful.) But, based on interviews, Revkin published a list of no-regrets actions the President could take now, including speeding the shift away from the burning of coal. 

Fair enough, but it appears that Obama is thinking much bigger, as a chorus of voices on the left, from John Dickerson at Slate (who calls on him to pulverize the GOP), Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, and Michael Tomasky at the NYRB all think he should. Tomasky suggests that the President is a transformational figure, as he promised he could in 2008. Maybe we just haven't noticed:

But it could be that this is what transformation often feels like. Perhaps this is what the New Deal felt like; after all, liberals were constantly frustrated with Roosevelt in precisely the same ways today’s liberals wish more from Obama. Shortly into his second term, Roosevelt riled the left by wholeheartedly embracing deficit reduction. Obama has only halfheartedly embraced it, which is progress.

Gun control, immigration, and climate change are the remaining big domestic items on the president’s agenda. The clock ticks.


Think the Prez knows what time it is. His favorite campaign line comes to mind:  Fired up. Ready to go.

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Humiliation planned for losing candidate: Romney set

The most astonishing book of the year to date around here is critic Wayne Koestenbaum's Humiliation, from 2011, a pained confessional essay about being brought low, about being crushed, about what the pain of embarrassment, shame, and mortification brings to a sufferer.    

Tomorrow the media pillory that Koestenbaum describes so well will begin (it's already started, in fact, even before the race is run). But it's not all bad, Koestenbaum argues!

Here's the critic/poet on the deeper meaning, and worth, of humiiation:

I believe, with Jean Genet, and Jesus Christ, and Oscar Wilde, and a few other martyrs and mysters and troublemakers, that humiliation is a kiln through which the human soul passes, and where it receives burnishing, glazing, and consolidating. Humiliation cooks the spirit to a fine finish. (About the experience of servitude, the great Robert Walser wrote, in his 1907 novel The Tanners, "Strange, too, that you might nonetheless experience this state of affairs as a sort of refuge, a home.") Neither Walser nor I consider humiliation pleasant. But if it didn't contain a silver lining, I wouldn't be examining this dismal category of experience. If humilitation didn't hvae the the potential (sometimes, in certain circumstances) to transfigure the person over whom it casts a noxious cloud, then I'd drop the subject and write about something genuinely redemptive, like white wine. [in the chapter called "Five O'Clock Shadow, a reference to Nixon] 

Nixon was the President most humiliated in our lifetimes until Bill Clinton came along, but Clinton,as Koestenbaum hinted, has been burnished by his trial by his passage through the kiln of media fire. 

The American public never exactly apologized to Clinton for its orgy of shaming during the ill-fated and seemingly endless impeachment debacle, but it's surely not a stretch to say that Clinton's huge popularity today is in part a recognition on the part of the public that they/we/us went too far in blaming/shaming/humiliating the man.

Koestenbaum writes:

When Bill Clinton's extramarital escapades hit the press, I quaked with vicarious shame and outrage that a mere blow job should rock the nation and that this forgivable president and his wife and daughter and Monica Lewinsky and everyone who knew and loved Monica Lewinsky hsould need to suffer in public and be seen by hypocritical viewers and pundits and senators as humiliated beasts…If this book has an ulterior aim, however disreputable, here it is: I want to stand up for those who are publicly shamed for [non-exploitative] sexual conduct. 

The pillory will be virtual, but the pain will be real for Obama or Romney. If the incumbent President loses, for the rest of his life he will be derided, mocked, and scorned for losing an election he should have won. If, more likely, the challenge Romney loses, he will be torn down, sneered at, shunned. It will be his fate, just as in Greek tragedies it was the fate of Cassandra to prophesize murder of her family, and not to be heard by them, or anyone.  

The pillory has already been erected, and Romney already has been splattered by commentators on the right such as Daniel Larison…although in a recent post Larison let up a little bit, in order to put the blame on George W. Bush

The Bush administration truly was one of the three or four worst
presidential administrations of the last sixty years, and Bush’s party
still hasn’t come to grips with what that means for how the rest of the
country sees them. In the wake of such a huge failure, it would be
almost inexplicable that the public could entrust the Presidency to that
same party after just four years. Assuming that Romney loses next week,
the puzzle won’t be why he lost, but why he was ever within striking
distance in the first place.

Karl Rove and other mainstream right-wingers put the blame on Hurricane Sandy, perhaps to avoid being blamed for choosing a candidate as obviously two-faced as Romney: 

“Obama has temporarily been a bipartisan figure this week. He has been the comforter-in-chief and that helps,” Rove said.

On the other side of the coin, our national Humiliator-in-Chief, Rush Limbaugh, has put the blame on Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, for being insufficiently partisan, and calling him "fat and a fool." 

Is it possible to dislike a politician and not want to see him viciously attacked? Maybe not. Which maybe means that those of us who suffer must learn to love our humiliiations, if we hope to survive them. 



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Romney and Obama, at convention, on global warming

MItt Romney, in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention:

"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet," Romney said. "My promise is to help you and your family." He got a standing ovation [for promising inaction on the threat of climate change]

President Obama, in response, at the DNC:

"And yes, my [energy] plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They're a threat to our children's future. And in this election, you can do something about it," Obama said, to a roar of approval from the hall.

It's something from the President. Perhaps as much as a line in the sand.

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Obama and Romney on warming this week in campaign

Romney [from convention speech to be delivered]: "Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.

Obama [from speech to college students]: Denying climate change won't make it stop

According to Ben Domenech of RedState, Romney's crack is the single best line in his speech.

True, probably. Politicians are notorious for promising too much, and it's a lot easier to believe a candidate could give a short-term gain than long-term sustainability. 

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