There is a common current running through two unrelated events of the past year the decline and fall of climate legislation and the firing of Shirley Sherrod from the Agriculture Department as a result of phony racism allegations.
When you read through The New Yorker's blow-by-blow description of the climate bill drama and sift through the e-mails of panic-stricken USDA officials regarding the Sherrod business, one thing is clear the Obama administration seems to be a risk-averse crew too prone to taking advice from political operatives with their fingers to the wind.
Had the administration thrown its weight behind the delicate climate compromise that Senators Lindsey Graham, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman were days away from wrapping up, the "KGL" bill might have had a fighting chance to win Senate approval. Instead, Obama's people played it safe and let the Senate's carping climate change deniers nail a trophy to the wall.
The Sherrod story is especially troubling. Rather than protecting a mid-level employee facing a political hailstorm, getting all the facts, and pushing back hard against deliberate misrepresentation ginned up by an inherently untrustworthy blogger bully, Obama's people crumpled and threw Sherrod to the dogs.
Such mealy-mouthed fecklessness got me thinking about the dramatic climax of "First Knight," a 1995 flick that starred Sean Connery as King Arthur. As the outnumbered king prepares to lay down his sword in front of his dispirited countrymen and a triumphant warlord, Connery's Arthur turns the tables on the cocky bastard with an electrifying call to "Fight! Fight!"
Which is what the Terminator is doing to save California's global warming law, AB 32, Arnold Schwarzenegger's baby and the finest environmental accomplishment of his tumultuous governorship.
Schwarzenegger is not mincing words in his confrontation with the greasy special interests backing Proposition 23, the ballot measure that effectively would pull the plug on AB 32 and its balanced framework of greenhouse gas emissions limits, tradable emissions allowances, and a low-carbon fuel standard.
Two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro are bankrolling Proposition 23. That's the same Tesoro facing a nearly $2.4 million fine for carelessness that led to a Washington State refinery explosion April 2 that killed seven workers. Just so you know.
Schwarzenegger is using blunt force rhetorical trauma to warn his constituents not to believe the smarmy ads that claim AB 32 must be killed to save jobs.
"They (the oil companies) are creating a shell argument that they are doing this to protect jobs. Does anybody really believe they are doing this out of the goodness of their black oil hearts spending millions and millions of dollars to save jobs?" Schwarzenegger told the Commonwealth Club of Santa Clara.
Later, at a Sacramento talkfest with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, Schwarzenegger fired off another broadside: "They're not interested in our environment; they are only interested in greed and filling their pockets with more money."
And later in the same forum: "If they are really interested in jobs, they would want to protect AB 32, because actually it's green technology that is creating the most jobs right now in California, 10 times more than any other sector."
Joining Schwarzenegger in the fight against Prop. 23 is George Shultz, the eminence grise who was Ronald Reagan's secretary of state and a key player, by the way, in Reagan's successful fight to enact the Montreal Protocol phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals. Shultz told Friedman: "You have to conclude that the financiers (of Prop. 23) are less concerned about California than they are about the fact that if we get something that is working here to clean up the air and launch a clean-tech industry, it will go national and maybe international. So the stakes are high."
Yes, Mr. Secretary, they are. President Obama and beleaguered centrist Republicans, for that matter must take that message to heart, go rent the "First Knight" video, and internalize that climactic scene.
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