AEI’s Kenneth Green Pulls a Charlie Sheen, Plays “Socialist” Card in Exchange With Chris Mooney

NASA's global temperature land-ocean indexThe American Enterprise Institute’s Kenneth Green is vying to be the Charlie Sheen of the denial crowd.   He said in a 2008 speech, “For the last decade, warming peaked, and has recently declined: we’re back to the average temperatures that prevailed in 1978.”  Not.  Not even close.

He also said “No matter what you’ve been told, the technology to significantly reduce emissions is decades away and extremely costly.”  Not (see World’s Engineers: “The Technology Needed to Cut the World’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 85% by 2050 Already Exists”).

But in some sense that’s all standard denier fare.  Green went the full Sheen in reply to a recent Chris Mooney column on how “Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today’s Left.”

Sheen Green wrote “Obama’s science team is composed almost exclusively of environmental radicals” (!) and he even played the “card-carrying socialist” card.

What follows is Mooney taking the sheen off of Green at Science Progress:

The Debate Over Left-Right Science Abuse Turns … Emotional


On Tuesday, I posted a long and widely read piece at DeSmogBlog dismantling the claim that there is anything “equivalent” about science abuse on the left and the right today. For some, this seems to have been a pretty powerful statement. And thus my friend Phil Plait, who I’ll be glad to see at CSICON in New Orleans next month, weighed in and said:

This is one of the most important political articles I’ve read in quite some time. Chris lays out the political reality of antireality in a stark way. The article is frustrating and infuriating, because it shows just how the right’s leaders have lost their grip on reality, and is a grim reminder of just how important the elections next year are.

But my article prompted precisely the opposite reaction from the person it was most directly criticizing–Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute. He didn’t respond very favorably, perhaps because I showed a quotation of his from 2003 that seemed to undermine his claim to support mainstream climate science.

Green accused me of “uninspired personal attacks,” though I am not aware of making any. Pointing out what Green said in 2003 is not a personal attack. I’ve written tons of things in the past–including some I don’t agree with any longer. It’s fine to point that stuff out.

If there was something about my tone that offended Green, though, I do want to apologize for that. I wrote with zest, to be sure. But I certainly did not intend any personal attacks.

In any case, to rebut me, Green really unleashed:

Let’s take the first oneMooney says: “On the left, we eat alive our own allies when they make false claims. That’s precisely what happened on vaccines and autism.”

This is actually comedy-club material when you consider that the Left still worships at the altars of Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich, Al Gore, and David Suzuki, who have declared the End of Days virtually every day for 40 years now. White House Science Advisor John Holdren is infamous for his extreme doomsday views and solutions, while Gore, who has a climate-footprint larger than some entire countries, just held a Climaggedon Telethon and still gets around $150K per speech from Left-leaning audiences pining for his non-existent presidency.

We get some emotion-laden phrases here: “worships at the altars,” “extreme doomsday views,” “Climageddon Telethon,” “pining for his non-existent presidency…” We do not get a rebuttal. And FYI: The notion that I worship at the altars of Carson and Ehrlich, when I was born in 1977, strikes me as deeply weird and disorienting.

But it continues:

On to the third argument, that only the anti-science types on the right are associated with the major political parties. Mooney says: “But the fringes aren’t very relevant—unless the inmates are running the asylum. That’s what you have today on the right, where Republicans and Tea Partiers overwhelmingly reject mainstream knowledge in key areas and these views are also endorsed by elected representatives and even presidential candidates.”

So let’s see who is running the asylum under Obama. As I pointed out in 2009, Obama’s science team is composed almost exclusively of environmental radicals, and until recently, Carol Browner, Gore’s disciple (and yes, a card-carrying socialist), was part of Obama’s team as well. Her disciple, Lisa Jackson, has unleashed an unprecedented tidal surge of environmental regulations into the teeth of an economic downturn second only to the Great Depression. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, apparently, has nightmares about hydrocarbons, but was apparently firmly behind funding Solyndra, the solar-cell manufacturer that just ate half-a-billion dollars in tax subsidies. Big checkbooks in the asylum, these days.

This is even more extraordinary, Again, it’s off point. Even if everyone in the Obama administration was a Bolshevik [they’re not, of course; rebuttal to this Browner stuff here], that would do nothing to strengthen Green’s case, since he does not show a single instance of science abuse. The fact is that the science the administration wants to use to make policy on climate is widely accepted science.

Keith Kloor is particularly shocked by Green’s tone in this passage–but should he be?

Motivated reasoning theory tells us that when phrases like “card-carrying socialist,” “unprecedented tidal surge of environmental regulations,” “environmental radicals,” and “nightmares about hydrocarbons” are used, we’re no longer engaged in a dialogue. If I now proceed to refute Green again, I’ll just be feeding a cycle of polarization. If one is interested in having a real exchange, it is far better to step back. Otherwise, we’ll just be acting like Congress acts–unable to find any common ground.

So I’ll say again to Green: I’m sorry if you saw a personal attack in what I wrote. That was not intended. However, I do not find your rebuttals persuasive or, really, on point (on the Christian right, you’ve just ignored all the evidence I produced). And a lot of people, like Phil Plait, find my arguments pretty persuasive. Soooo…don’t you think there can be something more like common ground here? I’m not saying the left is innocent–just that it doesn’t really compare right now to the right.

I propose we slice it this way. Let’s just focus on presidential candidates, the people the parties put forward to represent them. Most GOP candidates today reject evolution and climate science. Do you know of President Obama rejecting anything in science as well established as these two bodies of knowledge? I certainly do not.

— Chris Mooney

8 Responses to AEI’s Kenneth Green Pulls a Charlie Sheen, Plays “Socialist” Card in Exchange With Chris Mooney

  1. Michael Tucker says:

    This is absolutely true: “Reality has a well-known liberal bias” so conservatives have rejected reality and substituted one of their own making. It is astonishingly shocking but the truth of this is obvious by the way they constantly overreact to criticism. They know the obvious truth that their positions are completely unsupported harebrained theories and conspiracy nonsense. That is why they whine about being quoted and make off-point rebuttals using highly charged language.

  2. cervantes says:

    Green gives himself away completely here. His objections are not to Obama administration scientific beliefs, or to the administration’s use of science. He just doesn’t like the policies. He doesn’t say why, he just hurls invective. Res ipsa loquitur. The reason Republicans deny scientific truth is because it would argue against their preferred policies. Well, it is what it is.

  3. BBHY says:

    “On the left, we eat alive our own allies when they make false claims. That’s precisely what happened on vaccines and autism.”

    Wasn’t it Michelle Bachmann who said in a debate that a vaccine caused mental retardation? This is not even a good example of science denial on the left, since we see a good amount of it from the right on the subject of vaccines. I don’t think I have ever heard of a leading Democratic politician making any such vaccine claims. This issue is more confined to the fringes on left.

  4. Chris F. says:

    Chris, Joe, et al.,

    Why are you guys engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the likes of Green? Should you ever manage to prove him wrong in the eyes of the deniers (impossible), there are 1000s more just like him in the tail of the low morality & intellect distribution. And, obviously, there are hordes of people willing to give them cash and a megaphone.

    What you really need to do is bombard the faux ivory tower of these money-laundering operations (aka “think” tanks) themselves. Screw the foot soldiers; focus on their citadel. This needs to be a sustained, coordinated campaign to put them on the defensive, since that’s been their (rather effective) battle plan against liberals/science/reality for decades.

    AEI, in particular, has engaged in a decades-long campaign against environmental and public health regulations. And a treasure-trove of documents with AEI, Cato, Heritage, etc. letterhead revealing how they operate fell into the public domain years ago:

    As part of the government’s settlement against the tobacco companies, they had to hand over tons of documents detailing their “smoking doesn’t cause cancer” denier campaign. UCSF now has a searchable public database of these, and many of them have absolutely nothing to do with smoking. Rather, they are sales pitches from AEI and their ilk to an industry with deep pockets and a grudge against epidemiology and science.

    A certain AEI “scholar” (gag me) named Roger Bate cooked up a campaign to dismiss concerns about DDT, tar Rachael Carson, and undercut the foundations of modern environmentalism. Back in the mid 1990’s, there he is hitting up Phillip Morris to pay for it. And R.J. Reynolds. And prostituting his skills to British American Tobacco (BAT) for only 800 pounds sterling per day.

    I’ve culled a few of the gems and would be happy to provide them to you or anyone willing and able to lob them in the right direction. Progressives have been totally inept at leveraging these; I guarantee you that right-wing operatives wouldn’t make the same mistake.

    Keep up the good fight.

    Chris F.

  5. cervantes says:

    Indeed. It really frosts my pumpkin when people try to assign antivax nuttery and quack medicine to “the left.” It has nothing to do with liberalism or leftism or the Democratic party. I haven’t seen any polls on the subject but a lot of those people are Christian conservatives and Ron Paul type libertarians.

  6. BBHY says:

    I don’t accept the term “Christian Conservative”. As far as I’m concerned, those are two words are mutually exclusive.

  7. Susan Anderson says:

    Yes! “Doubt is our product” and we are encouraged to doubt ourselves and each other as much as possible, and take infinite pains acknowledging each dot and cross on i’s and t’s while ignoring the big picture.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’ve known from an early age that some people are morally insane. It’s the best definition of evil I’ve ever encountered. As I grew older I realised that those most in thrall to money and the urge to dominate others, to push them around, bully and intimidate them, were diseased in mind and soul. And these people are the Right. The Right has destroyed the planet and devastated humanity, in pursuit of money and power. The only difference with the situation today is that the global system that the Right has created is collapsing, and taking humanity with it. That the Right is fighting against truth, science, rationality and human decency surprises me not one iota-I would expect nothing other from them. And, believe me, it will get a lot nastier yet, because they draw on literally unbounded reservoirs of viciousness and maliciousness.