There has been a flurry of reports of late about how President Obama has staked his “legacy” on the success of the ongoing UN climate confab in Paris. And no doubt these reports are true. This White House has been promoting the Paris talks in earnest since late August. Indeed, the putative threat of global warming has received more of the President’s public attention than any other foreign policy issue during his second term.
So I’ve been asking myself: would Obama be president today if he’d been forthcoming about climate change during his reelection campaign in 2012?
After all, it would have been impossible for voters three years ago to have expected that Obama would make climate change his top priority, as the president refused to reveal his true intentions. Consider the following headlines from October 2012:
- San Francisco Chronicle: “Obama, Romney Quiet on Climate”
- Guardian: “U.S. Presidential Debates: Abortion, Climate Change, and other Missing Issues”
- Associated Press: “Guns, Climate, Gays Missing in Presidential Race”
Far from making climate change a priority, Obama in 2012—the guy trying to get elected—was an avowed champion of all fossil fuels, which, of course, are the alleged cause of supposedly terrifying global warming. During the debates, for example, Obama tried to outflank Romney’s right on energy. That Obama—the guy trying to win over American voters—was pro-gas, pro-oil, and even pro-coal. It was only in the immediate wake of reelection, after which he no longer faced voter scrutiny, that Obama pivoted to legacy-making on the climate.
To recap: Obama in 2012 trumpeted his record on fossil fuel production and ignored climate change in order to get elected; then, once he was elected, he made climate change his number one priority. So he actively misled the American people. Such a naked bait and switch is unprecedented in modern presidential politics. It is also crassly cynical, and should put to shame any notion that Obama cares about “hope” or “change” or any of that jazz.
Alas, Obama’s political cynicism runs even deeper. Despite Obama’s lacking the courage to campaign on the policies he intends to prioritize, he has the gall to claim that executive action is necessary on climate change because the Congress won’t act. Apparently, he thinks that only American politicians other than the president should face electoral accountability on global warming policy. But his behavior is even worse than mere “do as I say but not as I do,” because Obama is complicit in the very congressional inaction he bemoans! In the summer of 2010, Obama effectively killed a cap-and-trade in the Democratic-controlled Senate by cancelling a meeting on the bill with Senate party leadership. The measure was a low priority for the President, so he cast it by the wayside. Where was his climate leadership then?
All of this lends perspective regarding the total absence of any electoral mandate for the President’s legacy-seeking. His policies are voter untested, and Congress unapproved. In Paris, he represents only his own ambition and the green component of the progressive base.