An online ABC News article on the “surrogate wars” of this year’s presidential election quoted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), an ardent supporter of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) candidacy, saying that McCain has “earned a reputation…of doing things that put the country ahead of party.” As an example, Graham cited McCain’s environmental record, claiming that it’s stronger that former Vice President Al Gore’s:
“He’s not going to run away from President Bush but at the end of the day, John McCain has earned a reputation, and has the scars to show it, of doing things that put the country ahead of party,” Graham said, noting McCain has differed with the party on immigration, his desire to close Guantanamo Bay, and enacting robust climate change policies.
“Climate change is the road less traveled but he’s traveled it even more than Al Gore,” Graham said. “Al Gore has talked about it and deserves great recognition but he was around here a long time and never introduced a bill.”
On its face, Graham’s claim is laughable. But digging deeper into the substance, it rings of pure absurdity. In fact, Gore held the first congressional hearings on climate change in the late 1970s, well before McCain was even elected to Congress.
In 1997, Gore helped broker the Kyoto Protocol which called for nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the passing of a Senate resolution stating that the U.S should not join Kyoto, Gore symbolically signed the protocol in November, 1998. While McCain voted for the resolution condemning Kyoto, he claims today that “we have an obligation” to cut greenhouse gases but still thinks the U.S. “did the right thing by not joining the Kyoto treaty.”
Moreover, the evidence shows that McCain is confused on environmental issues. He now supports ethanol despite previously criticizing it. McCain has talked tough on capping carbon emissions but failed to even vote on key Senate legislation addressing the issue. Furthermore, he doesn’t seem to understand his own position on cap-and-trade:
In the Republican debate in Florida, he denied that his cap-and-trade program included a mandatory cap on carbon. (One wonders what he thought that first word was doing in there.) He has said he won’t support a cap-and-trade bill unless it includes extra support for nuclear power (because nuclear power is low-carbon), not seeming to grok the fact that the whole point of a cap-and-trade program is to raise prices on carbon, offering a de facto subsidy to all low-carbon options.
While Gore was starring in the Oscar winning global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, McCain has been trying to build an environmental record that is just strong enough to anger conservatives and fool the media into continuing to call him a “maverick.” But the reality is that McCain’s record falls well short of the leadership Gore has shown on the issue.