Novak: VP-hopeful Pawlenty fails energy/climate conservative litmus test

Just in case you thought conservatives might be warming up to climate action and clean energy with the impending nomination of John McCain as the GOP a standardbearer, uber-conservative columnist Bob Novak explains otherwise in a column titled, “How Not to Run for Vice President.”


As a non-conservative, I know I can’t do justice to Novak’s “logic” by summarizing it, and I suspect many readers would think I was taking his argument out of context, since it seems so … well … judge for yourself. I’ll just reprint most of it in total:

Minnesota’s Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, carefully prepared his plan for controlling greenhouse gas emissions to present it at the annual winter meeting of governors in Washington. That effort coincided with Pawlenty’s fast-rising prospects to become Sen. John McCain’s choice for vice president. But behind closed doors, governors from energy-producing states complained so vigorously that Pawlenty’s proposal was buried.

Pawlenty’s position as chairman of the National Governors Association may prove to be his undoing. While party insiders sing his praises as ideal to be McCain’s running mate, leading conservative Republican governors have been less than pleased with him. Pawlenty has collaborated with the association’s Democratic vice chairman, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, on a fat economic stimulus package as well as the energy proposal.

Hours after Pawlenty’s energy plan was derailed, McCain himself was privately urged by GOP governors not to appear to be anti-coal or anti-oil. The upshot of a busy Saturday at the J.W. Marriott Hotel downtown was that Pawlenty came across as somebody considerably different from what McCain needs to calm conservatives. He left the nation’s capital as a less attractive vice presidential possibility than he was when he arrived.

And they say progressives have litmus tests!! Apparently if you support strong government policies to save the next 50 generations from a ruined climate, that’s a non-starter. No doubt that’s why McCain continues to soft-pedal his climate rhetoric, repeatedly (and absurdly) claiming a cap-and-trade system is not a “mandate” — a word as verboten for conservatives as “evolution.” To the rest of the world, Pawlenty is a rock-solid conservative in a key swing state:

Pawlenty, 47, has long been talked about as a good fit for the 71-year-old McCain. He is the most conservative Minnesota governor since Theodore “Tightwad Ted” Christianson in the 1920s. Elected to two terms (albeit narrowly) in a slightly blue state, Pawlenty is seen by supporters as a plus for McCain in the Democratic Upper Midwest if added to the ticket.

He gets high grades from conservative fanciers of Republican horse flesh, such as Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman and Pawlenty’s fellow Minnesotan, Vin Weber. Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist approves of Pawlenty’s record, save for one hike in cigarette taxes.

But he has committed two apparently unpardonable conservative sins — he believes humans are changing the climate, and he won’t shill for coal and oil interests:

As co-chairman of the association’s energy committee (with Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who gave the Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union address this year), Pawlenty proposed state goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But at a “governors-only” session that opened the meeting on Saturday, Pawlenty encountered adamant opposition. Barbour led the way for governors from energy-producing states, including Republican Rick Perry of Texas and Democrat Steve Beshear of Kentucky. The issue of greenhouse gases was “set aside,” Pawlenty told me, “because we realized there was no consensus.”

[“No consensus.” Irony can be so ironic.]

McCain, who has co-sponsored a global warming bill with his friend and supporter Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), got more of the same over dinner with Republican governors that night. They made clear that energy was a major issue and that they hoped McCain would be sensitive to energy producers. By all accounts, the prospective presidential nominee was receptive.

[McCain is certainly receptive.]

That same day, the Wall Street Journal ran a column by Minneapolis-St. Paul talk show host Jason Lewis critiquing Pawlenty’s record — including renewable energy mandates — as too liberal for him to be McCain’s vice president. “If you look at my record as a whole,” Pawlenty told me Sunday, “I would be astonished if I was not considered conservative.” As for Lewis’s remarks, “He doesn’t think I’m conservative because I’m a proponent of clean energy (!!), and, from my standpoint, we’ve got a national security issue.”

[The Lewis column is here: He frets that “Pawlenty imposed some of the most aggressive renewable energy mandates in the country,” and that Pawlenty told the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (pinch me I must be dreaming): “It looks like we should have listened to President Carter. He called us to action, and we should have listened. . . . Climate change is real. Human behavior is partly and may be a lot responsible. Those who don’t think so are simply not right. We should not spend time on voices that say it’s not real.” For conservatives, praising Carter is a firing squad offsense.]

“We loved Ronald Reagan, but he made some compromises along the way,” Pawlenty said, adding, “We don’t have a big enough party to be throwing people overboard.” Presumably, that also means coal and oil interests.

No, you just can’t make this stuff up — or at least I can’t.

6 Responses to Novak: VP-hopeful Pawlenty fails energy/climate conservative litmus test

  1. Ronald says:

    I read in ‘The Onion’ the best one line answer of why the conservative republicans don’t like about McCain. ‘The Onion’ is a satire/comedy newspaper/magazine that has hilarious articles in it of made up news, but that does has commentary value just like Stewart and Colbert have on their Comedy Channel shows.

    Anyway the paper listed a number of funny reasons and the last reason conservatives don’t like McCain is because ‘McCain is soft on hate.’ That’s the truest line I’ve heard in a long time. Many of the conservative commentators make their living on getting people to hate something and what better thing to hate than the United Nations and then the IPCC report and a bunch of people who want to take their fossil fuels away from them. And then John McCain comes along and says we should listen to the IPCC and the UN, conservative talk show jocks have about had a cow over that.

    McCain is soft on hate. How could he ever get the conservative endorsement . He’s got an uphill battle.

  2. Hal says:

    Let’s face it. Our two-party (so-called) democracy simply doesn’t work well. And Nader shouldn’t try to fix it, again.

    The problem is more fundamental. It has to do with the populous’ (and talk show hosts’) preference for black and white answers to questions about complex issues that have uncertainty in the known knowns and known unknowns and that also have many unknown unknowns.

    Do you think all the supposed interest in and excitement about the coming Presidential election will get more than half the eligible voters to the polls? Why not?

    What’s your number one issue? Would you sacrifice your number two and three priority issues to have a candidate who supported your views on the number one issue? Let’s say issues number one, two, and three are economy (stupid), war, and climate change. Did I get your issue? You mean you don’t care about having a job, how much tax you have to pay, whether you can get or afford health care, the quality of education for your child(ren), or whether you can afford the house, car, or vacation that you strongly desire? Am I getting the point across yet?

    Have you ever worked in a group that was formed as a coalition of purportedly like-minded or logically-connected one-issue-oriented groups? Organizing against the Vietnam War in the late 60s and early 70s, I found myself in such contexts often. Everyone wanted to add their issue as number 2 right after stopping the war. Labor, feminists, farmworkers’ rights, minority issues, gay rights (this was in Berkeley and San Francisco), … I can’t even remember them all, there were so many. There were no simple answers. And I still don’t believe that WE stopped the war, although many of my allies from those years said that they believe we did when we talked about during our marches to demonstrate against the invasion of Iraq earlier this decade.

    OK. so what does this have to do with climate change, you ask. Would you vote for McCain if he and his running mate had a better position on climate change than the Dem nominee? In spite of his commitment to 100 years more in Iraq?

  3. Paul K says:

    McCain and his running mate will have a better position on climate change. John McCain has made no commitment to 100 years more in Iraq. He was asked if Americans might be in Iraq in ten years and he said yes and hypothetically 20 or even a hundred. You may note we have been in Japan and Germany for 60 years, Korea for over 50 and Cuba longer than both.

  4. Dave Romm says:

    Pawlenty is my governor, and he’s infamous for kowtowing to the “no new taxes” crowd, letting Minnesota’s infrastructure and education system suffer so a few greedy hypocrites could buy shinier gas-guzzlers. I’m even skeptical of Novak’s claim that Pawlenty is greener than most radical conservatives: He has a terrible track record on the environment.

    McCain is the divisive candidate in this election. Let’s hope he splits the GOP into tiny pieces. If making Pawlenty a fellow sacrificial lamb drives the right wing even away from reality, so be it.

  5. Paul K says:

    So far the divisive candidate has been Clinton, but she may be not long for the race. The right wing will get behind McCain on issues of national security, life, guns and taxes. His problem is with nativists.

  6. Jay Alt says:

    Here’s a link to the NGA and the meeting:

    The main theme, promoted by Gov. Pawlenty (and Selebius), was ‘Securing a Clean Energy Future’
    (click on CFL icon). Announcing that initiative was his first act as new chairman for 07-08.

    Scary Ideas for Paleozoic Pols.