McMegan says “Despite what Matt says, I fail to see how Bush made any difference, given that the Senate had rejected the treaty 99-0 with one abstainer.”
This is silly (about as silly as the view, sometimes expressed in comments, that I should avoid criticizing Megan when she writes things that are wrong on the theory that conservative views would somehow vanish if I ignored them) — Clinton signed the treaty, knowing he couldn’t get it ratified, and Bush un-signed it, knowing that there was no threat of ratification. Neither administration did what they did for no reason. Rather, they did it because of the impact on the political momentum, precisely the factor UN officials have cited to me as the relevant mechanism.
Meanwhile, let me also just say that I find there to be something incredibly wearing about this worldly-wise pose where one combines fatalism with nitpicking attacks on straw environmentalists instead of just forthrightly taking the view that the United States government ought to be indifferent to the problem of climate change. Maybe we’ll do the right thing, and maybe we won’t — the future isn’t written yet. One factor determining whether or not we do the right thing is whether or not right-of-center elites — yes, including political bloggers at the Atlantic — put emphasis on the idea that it’s important for us to do the right thing.