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The unbearable lameness of being (Rahm and Axelrod)

By Joe Romm on June 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm

"The unbearable lameness of being (Rahm and Axelrod)"

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Obama to address nation on BP disaster Tuesday, asserting it “echoes 9/11,” vows he’ll use his presidency to insure country embraces “new way of doing business when it comes to energy.”

When it comes to a cap on carbon, the White House’s strategy for 18 months has been to speak softly and … nothing more. Now the oil spill has forced Obama to ramp up his rhetoric. Does he mean it this time? Either he starts fighting or he doesn’t. The “stealth strategy” is inoperative. The White House can’t fake it any more.

That’s Eric Pooley, former managing editor of Fortune, in an email to me about his new book, The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth.  Anyone interested in climate politics should read it, and I’ll review it later.

Rahm Emanuael and David Axelrod are certainly two of the main reasons that Obama has been far too tame on climate.  Obama will apparently be giving his long-awaited prime time BP disaster and energy policy speech on Tuesday — and it could well be make or break for both his presidency and the efforts to address global warming this decade.

Pooley has a short adaptation of his book at The Climate Desk, “Obama’s Climate Complacency: Blame Rahm?” that I excerpt below:

Engulfed by the worst environmental disaster in US history, Barack Obama is trying to change the subject. On May 26 the president pledged to “keep fighting to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation,” and on June 2 he declared, “The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean-energy future.” Pivoting from oil spill to climate bill makes sense; a mandatory, declining cap on emissions is America’s best chance to wean itself off of fossil fuels””and Obama’s best chance to wring some good out of the catastrophe. With the Senate expected to vote today on Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) call to march in the wrong direction””a resolution stripping the EPA of the power to regulate greenhouse gases””this will clearly be a battle. But what did the president mean by “keep fighting?” As the campaigners on the front lines of the climate war know, Obama has not yet begun to fight.

In the early days of the administration, Al Gore sent the new president a confidential memo explaining why it was essential for the US to pass a climate bill in 2009, before the UN summit in Copenhagen, where the world was supposed to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. If the US delegation arrived empty-handed in Copenhagen, Gore wrote, the world would have no chance to reach a new global deal. American leadership was the crucial and still-missing ingredient. But except for a few days in June 2009 spent whipping the vote for the Waxman-Markey climate bill, the White House has not pushed for the cap. It has been all talk””and even the talk tends to get watered down.

As Earth Day 2009 approached, for example, Obama and his strategists decided that a clean-energy event was needed. When the president prepped for the speech, to be held at a former Maytag factory in Iowa that now makes towers for wind turbines, he said he hadn’t been talking enough about the specifics of climate policy””a complaint that the entire climate community shared. Climate czar Carol Browner saw an opportunity. Two months earlier, she had prepared a policy document based on a short-lived interagency process designed to reach an internal consensus on climate policy, but the process got stalled and the document was languishing on Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s desk. Browner wanted to dust it off and use it to prep the president on a deeper level of policy detail, so the Iowa speech could send signals to Congress about his position on the design of a climate bill.

Emanuel and strategist David Axelrod didn’t think that was a good idea. Better to stick to our basic clean energy message, they argued, and stay out of the policy weeds. It was the sort of fight that happened all the time in the Obama White House, and the True Believers ended up losing every time. “It was lather-rinse-repeat a thousand times in a thousand ways,” said one. “You had this incredible green cabinet of really committed people, but the only thing that really matters is what the president says””so everyone was trying to get words into his mouth. And Rahm was trying to keep the words out of his mouth. It was just a chronic pattern of infighting.” The green cabinet””Browner, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, and others””thought there was a strong case to be made for the clean energy economy. With a little effort and focus, they argued, Obama could marshal the arguments, beat back the opposition, and move the needle of public opinion. “But then there were the Washington operatives on the political and economic teams who did not want to waste a bunch of bullets on some weirdo green crusade when the polling numbers weren’t there, and it would be a bloody battle to take that hill. They said, ‘Let’s go take some other hill.’”

On Earth Day in Iowa, Obama used a fairly basic set of talking points for the speech, focusing on the energy provisions in the stimulus bill and the need for a carbon cap. He showed what an effective teacher he could be, explaining that America already placed limits on “sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide and other harmful emissions, but we haven’t placed any limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It’s what’s called the carbon loophole,” he said, borrowing a phrase from Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection. He framed the issue nicely, sweeping away a false choice that dated back to Reagan: “The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline.” He even gave a mini-tutorial on how a market-based cap would work, while carefully avoiding the term “cap and trade,” which Axelrod had declared radioactive.

The administration was sending mixed signals about whether the president would spend political capital trying to pass the cap. Dealing with the White House required a one-day-at-a-time, God-grant-me-the-serenity mindset, especially when it came to Rahm Emanuel. The chief of staff was an obstacle to climate action.

When corporate and environmental leaders from the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) went to the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing for a late spring 2009 meeting with Emanuel, they could see that he didn’t much care about climate change. What he cared about was winning””acquiring and maintaining presidential power over an eight-year arc. Climate and energy were agenda items to him, pieces on a legislative chessboard; he was only willing to play them in ways that enhanced Obama’s larger objectives. He saw no point in squandering capital on a lost cause. The White House could claim victory if Congress passed a beefy energy bill without a cap””never mind that doing so could torpedo Copenhagen and delay serious green house gas reductions, perhaps for many years. At the USCAP meeting, Emanuel made his views clear: “We want to do this climate bill, but success breeds success,” he said. “We need to put points on the board. We only want to do things that are going to be successful. If the climate bill bogs down, we move on. We’ve got health care.” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) had to move the bill out of committee before the White House would get in the game.

Emanuel had a point. If Waxman couldn’t win a simple committee vote without Obama’s help, no amount of presidential jawboning would carry the day. But his formulation threatened to become yet another climate catch-22: the White House wouldn’t engage unless the votes were there, but the votes wouldn’t be there unless the White House engaged. Obama aides spoke of a “stealth strategy” in which the energy team worked behind the scenes but the president was deployed sparingly.

“If you consider the difficulty of trying to pass cap and trade during a recession,” one Obama adviser said, “keeping a lower profile makes sense. Why stir up the opposition?” This was out of character for a president who was omnipresent in the media. His communications team put him on every magazine cover, granted “exclusives” to every news operation, sent him to five talk shows on a single Sunday. But on climate, they held him back because the green jobs message wasn’t playing well….

Not sure I entirely agree that was the reason why they held back Obama.

Rahm and Axelrod simply don’t get global warming.  They bought the nonsensical argument based on bad polling analysis that there was no good way to talk about it (see Messaging 101b: EcoAmerica’s phrase ‘our deteriorating atmosphere’ isn’t going to replace ‘global warming’ “” and that’s a good thing) — and that it was not a politically winning issue (see Mark Mellman must read on climate messaging: “A strong public consensus has emerged on the reality and severity of global warming, as well as on the need for federal action” “” ecoAmerica “could hardly be more wrong” or many polls here).

Obama’s stealth strategy had a fallacy at its core. The strategy assumed it was possible to be stealthy on this issue. It implied that if Obama didn’t elevate the issue, the opposition wouldn’t elevate it either. But the professional deniers””PR men and women paid to sow doubt and confusion on the issue””were getting louder every day. And Obama passed up chance after chance to talk about it.

When Waxman and Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought the Waxman-Markey bill to the floor, they forced Obama’s hand. He began pressing members, Gore worked the phones from Nashville, and Emanuel put aside his misgivings and mounted an effective whip operation. With an impressive last-minute display by Pelosi, the bill passed 219 to 212″”and then the momentum dissolved in the face of conservative opposition. Obama’s stealth strategy failed to take into account the vigor of American denialism and opposition to cap and trade. It also failed to anticipate that unforeseen cataclysms could make climate legislation harder to pass in 2010 and beyond than it had been in 2009.

It’s a cruel irony that the epic disaster in the Gulf””a wakeup call to the need to reduce our dependence on oil””makes it harder to pass a bill that would help us do so. Expanded offshore drilling (and the revenue it would bring) was the chip Obama hoped to use to draw oil-state senators into a grand bargain that would also include subsidies for nuclear power and carbon capture and storage, with a modest carbon cap in return. The oil spill blew up that idea by taking expanded deepwater drilling off the table, at least for now. With few chips left, Obama appears to be hoping that public anger over the spill can help drive a new version of the climate bill. Soon, we’ll know whether he really means it. Democratic leaders in the Senate have been floating the idea of an energy bill without a carbon cap””which would be yet another failure of nerve by a group of legislators badly in need of adult supervision. Passing a real climate bill will be excruciatingly difficult. Waiting will only make it harder. It’s time for Obama to intervene on the Hill, silence the naysayers inside his own administration, harness the public mood, and make good on his promise to fight.

Duh!  (see “Is Obama blowing his best chance to shift the debate from the dirty, unsafe energy of the 19th century to the clean, safe energy of the 21st century?“)

I will say that Rahm and Axelrod are not solely to blame for the administration’s lack of narrative.  Indeed, the Matt Bai piece in the NYT magazine today — “Democrat in Chief? It’s not clear that President Obama cares deeply about leading his party” — makes clear that Obama himself seems to lack the vision thing.

BUT even if Obama is not a great communicator, not a great narrative-creator, he is probably the best speechmaker in the party since JFK.  He is visiting the Gulf again on Monday and Tuesday with the intent of delivering a major primetime speech this week.  The Politico reports:

President Barack Obama told POLITICO columnist Roger Simon that the Gulf disaster “echoes 9/11″ because it will change the nation’s psyche for years to come.

Obama “” facing mounting criticism of his handling of the BP gusher, even from longtime allies “” vowed to make a “bold” push for a new energy law even as the calamity continues to unfold. And he said he will use the rest of his presidency to try to put the United States on a course toward a “new way of doing business when it comes to energy.”

“In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11,” the president said in an Oval Office interview on Friday, “I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come.”

Previewing his message for the midterm congressional elections in November, the president said: “[T]he Democrats in Congress have taken tougher votes, have worked harder under more stressful circumstances, than just about any Congress in our memory. And they’ve done a great job and deserve reelection.”

“So I’m going to be fighting on their behalf and doing everything I can and using my bully pulpit to communicate that fact to the American people,” he said. “I know there’s an anti-incumbent mood out there right now because “¦ people are frustrated about the hit that the economy has taken. “¦ But what I’m going to remind people of is we didn’t create this mess. And this Congress responded forcefully at a time when this economy really could have fallen off a cliff.”

And I’ll give Obama credit for this comeback:

“The irony of course is, is that the rap on me before I got to office was that that’s all I could do — right?” he said with a chuckle. “[Y]ou know, ‘The guy gives a great speech, he inspires people, gets them all excited but we don’t know if he can manage and govern.’ So it’s not that I don’t think these issues are important. It’s that there’s a time and a place for these issues. “¦

“What the public wants to see is us solving this problem. And that may not make for good TV. Me sitting in a meeting with [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu and [Gulf national incident commander] Thad Allen and looking over maps and figuring out how boom gets someplace, that’s not something that is high theater. But ultimately that’s going to make the biggest difference in terms of whether or not the Gulf recovers.”

Obama said he couldn’t predict whether the nation would transition completely from an oil-based economy within his lifetime but added that “now is the time for us to start making that transition and investing in a new way of doing business when it comes to energy.”

Well, the time has long since passed, but now is certainly much better than later.

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27 Responses to The unbearable lameness of being (Rahm and Axelrod)

  1. fred says:

    don’t say the time has long since passed. that sounds defeatist and discouraging. now is not the time to dwell on the past and be bitter about it. now is the time to act. and as you yourself said: it’s not too late to stop the worst from happening.

  2. Raul says:

    Thank-you the post is very informative. But, with our new source of concern and great expenses this country still needs to find many
    to fund our wars etc. or maybe we should stop fighting and pay
    hugely to clean up the mess right there in the Gulf of pollution.
    So legislatures seem convinced that they need to pander to the
    people yet do what the ones want that would pick up the huge growing
    need for more monies?

  3. mike roddy says:

    Climate legislation would pass in a rollcall vote, but the Democrats are intimidated by the Republicans’ clear intention to filibuster. This needs to be turned against them. Let’s try to bring the bill to a vote, and get all of the Barrassos and McConnells on record as using cheap parliamentary tactics to kill serious efforts to move toward clean energy.

    This would be a big winner politically, if the Democrats have the heart to stick to it, and to call the Republicans exactly what they are: employees of the fossil fuel industry, and whoever else will pay. Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, and even Eisenhower would call out powerful industry sectors when they began to believe that they had the right to thwart the will of the people, just so they could make a few more bucks.

    Democrats will have to do this sooner or later anyway if there’s going to be any real change. If they don’t find the courage and integrity to do it this time, I fear for our future.

  4. Bob Wright says:

    Is it possible the administration has now decided to wait until after the mid-term elections to spare valuable congressional votes from the denier noise machine? If Obama doesn’t push at that point, he never will, and it would be time for the “green cabinet” to resign and start a primary challenge for the next presidential election.

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    Three Balls and Two Strikes

    It’s time to step up to the plate, show his (Obama’s) stuff, lead or get out of the way, and lead us effectively to effectively address climate change and the related energy issues.

    Although I hope and (do) trust that he hasn’t been faking it, and I am still hopeful, nevertheless, the point is correct that his path forward will speak for itself. The time is now. No more messing around, waiting for “the right time”, hoping against all the facts that the other folks will come around, and so forth.

    I saw bits and pieces of an interview of David Axelrod today, and I’m sorry and disappointed to say that it wasn’t at all convincing, confidence-building, or inspiring. In fact, I can’t recall seeing anyone in the administration talk convincingly and passionately about climate change, except for Obama, rarely, and perhaps one or two other folks, e.g., at the Earth Day rally. Some people “seem” passionate but, in the end, don’t seem to have any nerve whatsoever. Others clearly see the world entirely through “political” glasses and don’t give the impression that they have any idea what they are talking about when dealing with nature and climate change and science. Others clearly have scientific credibility but either defer, FAR too much, to the political types, or speak with the passion and urgency of a snail. (I’m not speaking of anyone in particular with that comment, but the comment reflects my general impression.)

    In my view, on this particular issue, advice to navigate the political complex and to try to thread a needle, and compromise until everyone says “who cares anymore!”, is NOT good advice. It will lead nowhere. It will deflate most people who care about the issue. I’d rather have nothing than have ineffective mush. If we set the bar high, and end up losing the first battles, we’ll all know clearly that we have to push harder.

    If I’m going to follow someone, he’d better lead.

    I want to see Obama speak, again and again and again, and tell us what HE is going to do and get done. Frankly, I don’t want to see Axelrod or etc. talk about the climate and energy stuff any more. Unless they “get smart” and change their approach.

    I just don’t know what more to say?! How many facts do they need on their side to get something done??? All bona fide scientific organizations have said that climate change is very real and that we need to kick the hydrocarbon habit, pronto. Their statements are printed, they are on the web, they are in letters, and they are available. The Gulf is getting covered in oil. We send billions of dollars overseas, many of them to governments and countries that don’t like us much. Oil and coal are ultimately limited anyway. And, the clean energy technologies will actually be good — VERY GOOD — for employment and the economy. So, what other facts do they need??? Really! Why are they whispering, compromising the whole thing away, giving ground, on the defensive? What am I missing? They need to change their game plan or, sadly, we need to change the coach. Simple as that.

    I still have hope, but the clock is ticking.

    If anyone — Climate Progress, CAP, the government, the Obama Administration, or the folks on the Bob Dylan tour (I’m a fan of his) — would like any ideas or help from me, please let me know.

    Sigh,

    Jeff

  6. Raul says:

    Glad to see that the money was on the EPA to do good.

  7. Jeff Huggins says:

    Effective Leadership vs. Ineffective Bureaucratic Stalled Government

    The folks in charge are gonna have to place a bet, soon, and show what they can do on the climate change and energy issues.

    I believe that plenty-enough people in the U.S. want effective leadership and will come around once they see it and see the problems that such leadership can address and the progress it creates. In other words, if the Administration “makes real good stuff happen”, that will ultimately lead not only to “solved problems”, and to real progress, but it will also lead to political success.

    On the other hand, nobody wants (including me) ineffective bureaucratic stalled government. And let’s be clear on one thing: Even though it’s clear who is contributing most to ineffective bureaucratic stalled government — the “no-sayers” and deniers and so forth — that only matters in some ways. It doesn’t really matter to future generations or to other species or even, in some senses, to me. I voted in the hopes that the Administration would be effective despite the wrongheaded stubbornness of many folks on the other side. The Administration will drown itself in hesitancy, unwise compromise, and ineffectiveness if it plays the game that the other side wants it to play. No more games. It’s time for effectiveness.

    If the Administration pushes hard, and passionately, and effectively, for real and positive change, and if the American people then don’t rise up to that occasion, then we’ll get what we deserve, and we’ll have learned something important in the process, about ourselves. But we won’t know unless we try. The political navigations that seem to be the focal point of (whoever is advising Obama) are not working, and they are sapping my energy.

    We are at a crossroads. It’s choice time.

    Jeff

  8. Lou Grinzo says:

    Events not of his making have have forced President Obama to make a gigantic decision. Does he:

    1. Swing for the fences, and give us a combination of the Jimmy Carter energy speech and JFK’s “we choose to go to the moon” speech, or

    2. Give us a lot of soothing words about committing to get to the bottom of this, supporting the affected people and businesses, etc., but giving (at most) passing mention to the overarching energy and climate change issues?

    I desperately want #1. I want him to throw down the gauntlet, trigger a massive, consciousness raising discussion, and dare the right wing to come out of the shadows and deny the science in broad daylight.

    I’m convinced we’ll get the other option. Obama is surrounded by people who consider the “possible” (as in politics is the art and science of achieving the possible) to be an inviolable boundary, not a challenge to be met and overcome when extraordinary circumstances demand it.

    We need statesmen and leaders, we have politicians, far too many of whom may as well have a UPC code on their forehead to make the shopping trips of the fossil fuel companies and similar interests even more convenient.

    Yes, I will watch Obama’s national address, and I will continue to hope for Option 1. That’s just not how I would bet on it playing out.

  9. Mark Shapiro says:

    While waiting for Tuesday’s speech, can we contact our reps, and the media, and renew our support for clean energy — including cap and trade and/or an energy tax?

    Whatever Obama proposes — whether bold or timid — whether too little or way to little — he and the proposal will be attacked full force by the Party of No(TM) and by the right-wing noise machine and by many in the corporate media. They have prepared the attack by making “tax” a four-letter-word.

    He will need every scrap of support we can muster.

  10. Mark Shapiro says:

    My suggestion to Obama and to all clean energy advocates: tie coal and oil to the mine disaster and to the Gulf disaster; to the coal miners’ deaths, and to the oilworkers’ deaths. Tie Republican opposition to Massey, and to BP, to pollution, death, and destruction.

    The road to clean, safe energy will not end with this administration, but we can make the big turn — the very big turn — toward clean energy together. We owe it to every miner, every oilfield worker, to their families, to the residents of West Virginia and the Gulf, to every soldier defending us around the world, and to every child who breathes our air.

    We can only do it together, and we can do it.

    Let’s roll.

  11. Mark Shapiro says:

    Oops. Is my partisanship showing?

    Doesn’t matter.

    Let’s roll.

  12. lizardo says:

    Can we please start an effort to get Rahm Emmanuel fired, fired, fired. I don’t care how, whether it’s a call-in campaign to the White House (dual message, go for broke on getting off fossil fuels and (b) fire Rahm), or setting up a fund to hire some really good spooks to find some dirt on him. I don’t care. This guy is Rasputin! (on all fronts)

  13. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    It could already be too late to save the Arctic sea ice.
    http://video.hint.no/mmt201v10/osc/?vid=55

    Prof David Barber’s presentation at the International Polar Year Science Conference. So very much of the multi year ice is rotten, they broke an eleven meter ice ridge with a 1200 class icebreaker. Swells 350 km into the ice pack.

    Me thinks you will be collecting your bet with William long before 2020

  14. mike roddy says:

    lizardo,

    Yeah, Rasputin is a good comparison. Or how about Carl Rove? Rasputin was evil, but Rove and Emanuel are pure sociopaths, with no real beliefs about anything, especially the future of our descendants.

  15. Raul says:

    My dad used to say disgustedly that they just print more money.
    Some math person pointed out that if there is such and such per
    cent inflation each year that the price of things will double
    in 6 years. So then a real wizard came out and said that with
    technology all problems can be solved. Then someone said oh really
    isn’t that only for some.
    The fj2 said get a bike and yes bikes work well with elec. motors.

  16. prokaryote says:

    Re. 13# on a sidenote

    Beside what he had to say about the ice thickness and related conditions, he mentions that we updated a lot of technologies over time – yet stuck with the inefficient combustion engine.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_internal_combustion_engine

  17. lizardo says:

    A propos of his upcoming speech, and the supposed CG to BP mandate to get more capacity:

    1) BP appears to be lining up a few more vessels. I’m actually amazed there’s any anywhere since this is not how oil is normally produced so I understand. Link here if you can access it and quite interesting:

    BP calls more processing power to Macondo–Clear Leader, Helix Producer 1 and Toisa Pisces.

    http://www.upstreamonline.com/live/article217648.ece

    2) McClatchy has an article today about the process WH went through before announcing expanded offshore drilling on March 31st:

    http://www.kansascity.com/2010/06/13/2013244/how-obama-decided-to-expand-offshore.html

    It appears to be have been not a decision taken overnight or lightly, but I sure didn’t hear anything about during the campaign in 08. But I can poke around on the MMS site and find a bunch of near misses etc. I feel like they didn’t do their homework as the article in fact states they didn’t.

  18. lizardo says:

    Oh and another more recent “no data, no problem” problem. (If someone’s already posted this I apologize, I’m losing track of where I picked it up, I think from the drill riggers forum):

    GIS experts hired by a contractor hired by BP to provide a GIS architecture for the Incident Command Post posted an open letter on the web (their site since hacked but letter is archived at the link below).

    They claim that all info re oil slicks, dead wildlife and all other essential information from all involved agencies is being sent electronically to a central point (and not retained) but is then inaccessible behind a BP firewall. This they say violates the National Incident Management System and Incident Command Structure. They got the system up in record time but after 3 weeks were fired/replaced on BP’s orders. You need to read the letter, and then make a stink. This is IMHO a huge scandal, and of a piece with all the absurd reasons given for denying media access (see Mother Jones for “road needs to be gravelled” re a road that had heavy official traffic) and so on ad nauseam).

    http://www.scientificblogging.com/chatter_box/bp_gis_and_mysterious_vanishing_open_letter

  19. Peter Wood says:

    A lot could be learned from recent Australian experience with climate legislation. The Australian Prime Minister Keven Rudd recently backed away from trying to push legislation through parliament, and as a result his popularity has completely plummeted. This was very much due to pressure from poll-driven advisors. Getting legislation through was also more difficult because last year the government did little to counter a scare campaign from polluters about cap-and-trade legislation.

    I hope that Obama does not make the same mistakes that Rudd did. He needs to explain the case for climate legislation to the American public, and be aware that if he backs away from effective climate legislation it will cost him dearly.

  20. Tim R. says:

    If Axelrod has scheduled him at the same time as Game 6 of the NBA finals, we know everything we need to know about the White House plan for climate and energy.

  21. Roger says:

    Yes, It’s high time for Obama to give a prime time speech to turn our dire situation around. We’ve been urging him to do so by letter, phone, fax, email, petition, White House visit–you name it–for a year now.

    Here’s a copy of one of our letters, sent to him last summer:

    President Barack Obama
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20500

    Dear President Obama,

    In the effort to create effective climate change legislation, perhaps our greatest impediment is the knowledge gap between scientists and the American public.

    Confused by misinformation and talk of a controversy, many Americans lack a clear understanding of the problem and its consequences. Without sufficient knowledge about the seriousness and urgency of dealing with global warming, the public will not support strong action against it.

    And without the support of their constituents, representatives and senators are also unlikely to make wise choices on climate change legislation.

    You can use your powerful position and popularity with the public to educate Americans. A “State of the Climate” address on prime-time national television would bring much needed information to millions of citizens.

    When America is under attack by a foreign country, it is the government’s responsibility to inform and protect our people. We are now faced by a threat more formidable than that posed by any army, but our citizens are inadequately informed and protected. Why? Because we have no suitable precedent to look to for the process of dealing with climate change.

    The most efficient way to bolster support from Americans for effective climate action is to make them informed citizens. It is your duty as the head of state to let Americans know what approaches.

    Inadequately explaining and publicizing the issue of global warming is a failure to protect the American people. Please do present a “State of the Climate” address soon!

    Sincerely,

    Roger Shamel, Director

    Global Warming Education Network

    Put more simply, and less formally than in the letter, here’s our ask:

    C’mon Obama, lead the nation,
    give us climate edu-ca-tion!

  22. Roger says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention: Comments here on CP about what Obama should do are great, but we need to do more than that. (He may not read CP!)

    What can CP readers do? For one thing, if you haven’t yet, please sign our “Please Educate and Lead” petition to Obama on Change.org: http://www.change.org/global_warming_education_network/petitions/view/obama_please_educate_and_lead_on_climate_change.

    For another, call the White House comment line, 202-456-1111, 9-5, EDT, and let the operators know what’s on your mind. (If the line is repeatedly busy, call the main switchboard at 202-456-1414. Tell them that you’ve been trying to leave an important comment, gotten a busy signal, and that you think they need to add more lines!)

    Third, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov and leave a comment after pushing the “Contact Us” button in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

    If you aren’t contacting Obama and other elected officials, you should not be surprised that your interests aren’t represented. Duh! I can assure you that the fossil fuel folks are expressing THEIR views to Obama and your elected officials on a very regular basis.

    Warm regards,

    Roger

  23. mark says:

    “I will say that Rahm and Axelrod are not solely to blame for the administration’s lack of narrative.”

    They were not elected President.

    Obama was.

    One of the attributes of successful people, is the ability to detect and discard bad advice.

    Other than on the making of political calculations, at this point, it’s looking like Barrack Obama does not possess that quality.

    And, was it not Rahm Emmanuel that was a large part of
    pushing through “NAFTA for Bill Clinton”?

    Given that the Provisions of NAFTA resulted in probably tens of thousands of factories, literally being loaded into trucks, and carted down to Mexico, shouldn’t Rahm Emmanuel be ashamed to appear in public, instead of giving advice to the President?

    The choice of Emmanuel as his main advisor, says a lot about President Obama.

    I think that the one, maybe the only thing Obama is afraid and ashamed of, is appearing to be unintelligent.

    Right now, he isn’t looking too bright.

    Maybe that will be the thorn in his side, that causes him to get off his duff, and do something meaningful on climate change.

    Who knows.

  24. mark says:

    The terrorism analogy is very very good.

  25. I agree with them, but don’t want to kvetch about much needed progress. In the end, this is a step in the right direction, and if it took BP to happen that’s a shame. But at least something good comes of BP rather than more abuses…

  26. jcwinnie says:

    “Oh! That poor country.”
    “Yes, but what a great speech.”

  27. Grady says:

    Mike Roddy, I couldn’t agree more. This is exactly the situation where you let the GOP go ahead and try a filibuster. Every day they do it, another million gallons of oil spews into the Gulf. One could even start a Filibuster web counter with a running total of gallons of oil since the filibuster started. See how long that lasts ;)