Post-debate cognitive dissonance check: Round II

I hope you enjoyed the first post-debate cognitive dissonance check, because (as you may have gathered) it’s time for the second. That’s because the second Presidential debate is nearly upon us, and I have yet to briefly address the first. So here we go:

ROMNEY: And the challenges America faces right now — look, the reason I’m in this race is there are people that are really hurting today in this country. And we face — this deficit could crush the future generations.

Here we have Mitt Romney demonstrating a basic understanding of ‘responsibility toward future generations’. But that same Mitt Romney also feels comfortable saying things like this:

ROMNEY: Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land. On government land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licenses in half. If I’m president, I’ll double them, and also get the — the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring that pipeline in from Canada.

And, by the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies. I want to get America and North America energy independent so we can create those jobs.

More natural gas. More oil. More Arctic Wildlife Refuge. More Keystone XL. More clean coal. “I like coal.”

Now, now, you might tell me. These aren’t necessarily horrible ideas. Even Obama publicly supports an ‘All of the above’ approach to energy generation. Maybe Mitt means to supplement these dirty sources of energy with increased investment in solar, in wind, in efficiency – you name it.

That’s certainly plausible. So let’s see what he has to say about green energy:

 I — look, I’m all in favor of green energy.

Wonderful. I’m sure it appreciates your favor. But how would you transform this favor into action? What do you think is a good idea? What do you think doesn’t work? What would be your ultimate goal?

Oh, right. The full excerpt:

ROMNEY: You put $90 billion into — into green jobs. And I — look, I’m all in favor of green energy. $90 billion, that would have — that would have hired 2 million teachers. $90 billion. And these businesses, many of them have gone out of business, I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in have gone out of business. […]

And in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world. Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives. And you say Exxon and Mobil. Actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth. […]

But don’t forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of breaks, into — into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tester and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right?

I’m going to ignore the obvious math fail in that last paragraph, the disingenuousness built into Romney’s complaint about hiring teachers (federal funding for public employees was cut during the recession, when it should have increased), and that his facts are misleading at best, totally fabricated at worst. (He vastly overestimates the amount Obama’s spent on green energy and understates the extent of government subsidies to big oil. Of course, for a man of his wealth, all those millions are a rounding error.)

Instead, let’s assume for a moment that what he said is true within broad outlines: Obama invested in green energy, in green companies, didn’t (yet) greenlight Keystone XL or drilling in Alaska, and so on.

That these allegations are considered attacks is astounding – and a depressing comment on the political climate of climate change.

Mitt, you just said “this deficit could crush the future generations,” so I know you understand that actions we take today can impact future generations. I know the deficit you’re worried about consists of actual, tangible, real money that you can hold in your hands and stick into your suit jacket.

But I also know you’re a smart guy. You went to Harvard Business School and also some second-rate affiliated law school. I think you’re capable of transferring your concern from strictly literal dollars and cents into other, more abstract types of debt – ones that stand to crush future generations in ways every bit as real as, if not more than, the kind of debt you’re used to.

I know this post is titled ‘cognitive dissonance’, but I don’t think Romney is incapable of understanding climate change. In fact, I’m fairly certain he does understand. But I also suspect that he just doesn’t care.

It used to be that – broadly speaking – both Democrats and Republicans agreed climate change was an issue, and simply disagreed over how to address it. But when Democrats threatened to actually do something (adopt the free-market cap-and-trade solution originally favored by Republicans) the disagreement shifted to whether there was any issue worth addressing in the first place. You can’t agree on a solution if you don’t agree there is a problem. Don’t want a solution? Deny the problem.

And Romney isn’t helping. Just over a month ago, he told Meet the Press:

The reason I’m in this race is to help people. I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet. I’m in this race to help the American people.

Nevermind that the American people live on the planet, and are surrounded by the ocean.

In high school, I was asked to represent President Bush in a mock school-wide Presidential debate. I included the following line as a sort of depressing joke:

President Bush is not as concerned with the environment as he is with your economic well-being because you are a human, not a tree.

Eight years later, the Republican party still forces its candidate to toe that line.

No, Obama hasn’t done much for the environment. He pushed Obamacare over climate change, and now rarely mentions it. He’s established few national monuments, is likely to approve Keystone XL, and has generally done his best to shy away from any big issues.

But running in place is preferable to going backwards. Or, in a metaphor that may one day become all too real in Mitt Romney’s America (what with rising sea levels and all that): treading water is preferable to drowning.


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