Sure, the President’s Climate Pivot Is Cynical. But Is It Also Terrible Politics?

by William Yeatman on May 22, 2014

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Whether the impetus is legacy-building or fund-raising, the White House is embracing climate change policy. This month, the administration released a report claiming that global warming is responsible for every bad weather event in recent memory; next month, President Obama reportedly will put a “personal touch” on the EPA’s climate plan, which would take over energy oversight from the States.

The President’s political pivot to environmentalism represents a marked change from the ideas he espoused when trying to get elected. Indeed, he campaigned to the right of Mitt Romney on energy policy in 2012. In addition to being ultra-cynical, I suspect that President Obama’s green turn is also bad politics.

After all, public opinion polls are consistent: Americans give low priority to climate change. Anecdotal evidence also suggests as much. For example, consider the “dismal” popularity of “Years of Living Dangerously,” a big budget global warming docudrama by James Cameron and starring a bunch of Hollywood stars. Consider as well the delicious quote below from CNN’s Jeff Zucker (by way of National Journal Overnight Energy):

CNN BOSS: ‘LACK OF INTEREST’ ON CLIMATE. Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, said that while climate change “is one of those stories that deserves more attention,” the network hasn’t gotten viewer involvement. “When we do do those stories, there does tend to be a tremendous amount of lack of interest on the audience’s part,” Zucker said at the Deadline Club’s awards dinner. 

Job growth is underwhelming; accordingly, “it’s the economy, stupid.” And with midterm elections fast approaching, I wonder how American voters will react to the de facto leader of the DNC elevating climate change–“a rich man’s issue” about which the public generally doesn’t care–to the fore. Poorly, I think. 

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