The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.
That is attributed to Dante, but applies best to the Washington establishment, especially one David Broder.
Part 1 looked at why the establishment media’s coverage of global warming is so fatally useless. Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas unintentionally provided the answer “” the shocking, unstated truth about the media elite: They have “a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are.”
But Evan Thomas is a B-list establishment journalist compared to the dean of the DC press corp — David Broder. In two recent columns, Broder has combined a scientifically uninformed position on climate with remarkably flawed political analysis designed to support his position. Let’s start with the absurdities in his most recent piece: “Why the Center Still Holds“:
Once political independents, who like the idea of clean air, grasped that cap-and-trade would mean a big tax increase for them, Republican opposition was reinforced and Democratic support weakened to the point that the Obama plan may already be doomed this year.
Huh? Cap-and-trade doesn’t mean a big tax increase (see “MIT Professor tells GOP to stop ‘misrepresenting’ his work and inflating the cost to families of cap-and-trade by a factor of 10“). That would be a right wing talking point that they beat to death over and over again to sucker … well, it’s obvious who they are trying to sucker. So much for Broder being a “centrist” or an independent.
I guess it always bears repeating over and over again that the combination of aggressive investment in energy efficiency and the President’s plan to return most of the auction revenues to the public means the majority of the public is held harmless — and indeed can actually lower their combined energy and tax bill if they adopt energy efficiency with the help of their utility or the federal government’s low-income weatherization program (see “Why even strong climate action has such a low total cost “” one tenth of a penny on the dollar“).
By focusing only on the cost of action, and ignoring entirely the cost of inaction, Broder is yet another poster child for the searing critique award-winning journalist Eric Pooley did for Harvard (see “The media’s decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress”).
Second, who the heck didn’t “grasp” a long time ago that cap-and-trade would raise the price of dirty energy? And when did any Republicans ever support action — you can go back several years to McCain-Lieberman and find very little support. Republican opposition couldn’t possibly be “reinforced” given that they have been dead set against any action whatsoever for years (see “Anti-science conservatives must be stopped“).
I grant that Democrats have done a lousy job explaining that a cap-and-trade never belonged in the budget in the first place. Again, climate legislation was never going to be easy, but in any case nothing that has happened recently suggests Democratic support is any weaker — or stronger — than it was 2 years ago (see George Stephanopoulos, Nate Silver, and Marc Ambinder all seem confused about global warming and budget politics and “Moderate Senate Dems build ‘Gang of 16″² to influence cap-and-trade bill“).
And, of course, it doesn’t really bother me — and I don’t think it should bother most climate science advocates — if we don’t pass a bill this year since Obama can get a better climate bill in 2010. And Obama certainly remains as committed as ever to a bill, something Broder conveniently omits (see Obama says his energy plan and cap-and-trade “will be authorized” even if it’s not in the budget “and I will sign it” “” Washington Post confused).
The really sad thing about Broder is that in two columns on the subject, he never bothers even mentioning a single reason why action on energy and climate is needed. In the “End of the Honeymoon,” he writes:
I think the shift began when Obama moved beyond the stimulus bill to his speech to the joint session of Congress and his budget message. For the first time, the full extent of his ambitions for 2009 became clear — not just stopping and reversing the steep slide in the economy but also launching highly controversial efforts in health care, energy and education.
Each of those issues has a history in Washington — a history marked by congressional gridlock and legislative frustration.
In Broder’s world of uninformed centrism, if an issue has a history of gridlock and legislative frustration, then it is “highly controversial” and any president who tries to address these absolutely crucial issues is reaching too far.
Again, note that he never bothers to engage the substance of the issue. The media establishment doesn’t care about substance. It only cares about the status quo. To repeat what Thomas wrote:
By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are. Safeguarding the status quo, protecting traditional institutions, can be healthy and useful, stabilizing and reassuring. But sometimes, beneath the pleasant murmur and tinkle of cocktails, the old guard cannot hear the sound of ice cracking. The in crowd of any age can be deceived by self-confidence….
That would be David Broder.
Two final points. Broder drags out seriously flawed political analysis to attack Obama as polarizing:
As for the voters, the Pew Research Center reported this month on a survey that showed the partisan gap in Obama’s job approval scores is the widest in contemporary history. He rated a thumbs-up from 88 percent of the Democrats and only 27 percent of the Republicans in the poll — a gap of 61 points.
At a comparable point in their first terms, the gaps for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were only 51 and 45 points, respectively.
Uhh, even the Washington Post‘s own political reporter, Dan Balz, explained a key reason for that change in statistics:
Another factor is that, in a shrinking Republican Party, conservatives hold more sway — and they are most likely to disapprove of a Democratic president’s performance. Exit polls show that 64 percent of Republicans who voted in November called themselves conservatives. That compares with 54 percent in 2000 and 49 percent in 1992.
So the main reason Obama appears to be more polarizing in terms of a 10-point bigger gap in relative favorability among Democrats vs. Republicans (compared to Bush) is that Republicans have gotten 10-points more conservative.
But that analysis would get in the way of Broder’s attack on Obama as someone who is polarizing because he attacks the status quo because he wants to avoid catastrophic global warming and deal with our unsustainable use of oil.
Or how about this from Broder’s first piece:
Congress has taken note of the way Obama backed down from his anti-earmark stance, a clear signal that he is leery of any showdown with the lawmakers. Despite his popularity, Obama is not an intimidating figure, and so he can expect to be tested time and again.
So let me see. First, Broder attacks Obama for overreaching by trying to address “highly controversial” issues like energy, even though that is precisely what a president should use his popularity for. Then Broder attacks Obama for not using his popularity for a “showdown” with lawmakers on the trivial earmark issue, which comprises about 2% of the budget.
Further note to Broder: Even if Obama cut out all of the earmarks, it wouldn’t save a penny of taxpayer money since the earmarks just cordon off parts of the budget — Congress would still keep the spending.
But the bottom line is clear. Broder thinks Obama should have burned up his popularity on a trivial process issue (earmarks), but that he should stay far away from the nation’s substantive problems like health care or energy, since that is only what polarizing politicians pursue.
The status quo approach of the David Broders of the the Washington establishment are the road to Hell and High Water.