As the Senate debate expired this summer, a longtime environmental lobbyist told me that he believed the “real tragedy” surrounding the issue was that Obama understood it profoundly. “I believe Barack Obama understands that fifty years from now no one’s going to know about health care,” the lobbyist said. “Economic historians will know that we had a recession at this time. Everybody is going to be thinking about whether Barack Obama was the James Buchanan of climate change.
It may be true that Obama “profoundly” understands what failing to address global warming means. Certainly I (and many others) thought that was true — until he basically punted on the issue without a serious fight.
The lengthy New Yorker piece, “As The World Burns,” however, suggests that if Obama did understand the transcendent nature of human-caused climate change, he personally didn’t try bloody hard to put together 60 votes for a bill.
The piece is well worth reading, although the conclusion, quoted above, just misses the mark. I don’t believe that in 50 years “Everybody is going to be thinking about whether Barack Obama was the James Buchanan of climate change.” Let’s set aside whether “everybody” (or even most people) in 2060 (or even today) would know what the “James Buchanan of climate change” means. For the record, Wikipedia notes: