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Lindsey Graham’s Meandering

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Lindsey Graham’s Meandering"

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I kinda sorta understand the political logic behind Republicans not wanting to be the “lone Republican” who signs on for something. But on another level, I don’t really get the point of some of these flirt acts. Lindsey Graham’s long dance with John Kerry over climate change legislation has already earned him the enmity of the kind of conservative groups who organize and finance primary challenges. We saw in the Robert Bennett story out in Utah that the mere fact that one’s bipartisan dalliances don’t get consummated isn’t good enough for the real purgers out there. All abandoning ship does is ensure that you end up friendless and alone when your enemies come after you.

Look at Graham’s sad effort to explain his views of carbon emissions to Kate Sheppard in response to the question “if carbon emissions aren’t warming the planet, why are they bad?”

His reply:

I just think it’s bad … the reason I don’t hang out in traffic jams and get out and suck up the wind is I think this crap is bad for you. We’ve had an increase in asthma cases, if you’ve ever been to Thailand stuck behind 400 motorcycles, it’s a lousy place to be. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist in my view to understand that the stuff floating in the Gulf, if you burn it doesn’t make it better for you. If you wouldn’t go swimming in this stuff, why would you burn it and want to breath it?”

On the science and policy merits, it’s quite true that burning fossil fuels has a lot of non-climate environmental impacts. But this generally isn’t the carbon dioxide that’s doing it. And it is possible to produce “cleaner” varieties of fossil fuels that aren’t so problematic (this is one reason why the air quality in developing world cities tends to be worse than in rich countries), but things like “clean coal” don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And politically, who is this muddle supposed to appeal to? Who is Graham expecting will take his side on this? Intern Ryan notes the precedent of Bart Stupak, who managed to make himself History’s Greatest Monster in the eyes of basically everyone.

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