Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 5, 2010

FEAR OF FOX AND THE DEATH OF A CLIMATE BILL.... If you haven't already read Ryan Lizza's monster piece on the life and death of the Senate's climate/energy bill, it's well worth checking out. It's a detailed look at the biggest legislative setback of the last two years, and the various mistakes and missteps that led to its demise.

I've seen some suggest that it casts the Obama White House in an especially bad light, and it's true that Lizza highlights some strategic and policy errors that the president's team made, none of which helped the process along. But the key takeaway from the article, at least for me, was that the tri-partisan package was destined for failure, regardless of any other consideration, unless four to six Senate Republicans were prepared to get on board.

Which means the package was destined for failure.

The Senate bill was shaped by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), giving it the "KGL" moniker, and Lizza explains Graham's role in the process in some detail. We learn, for example, that the South Carolinian reveled in his role as the Senate's "new GOP maverick," and that Graham's relationship with John McCain strained as McCain grew increasingly bitter, jealous, and antagonistic about Graham's willingness to be constructive.

Other Republican colleagues taunted Graham. "Hey, Lindsey," they would ask, "how many times have you talked to Rahm today?," and the criticisms in South Carolina became more intense. But Graham gave every indication to Lieberman and Kerry that he could deal with the pressure. He wasn't up for re-election until 2014, and his conversations with them, and with Krupp, the White House, and the Manhattan environmentalists, seemed to be having an impact.

At a climate-change conference in South Carolina on January 5, 2010, Graham started to sound a little like Al Gore. "I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution" are "not a good thing," Graham said. He insisted that nobody could convince him that "all the cars and trucks and plants that have been in existence since the Industrial Revolution, spewing out carbon day in and day out," could be "a good thing for your children and the future of the planet." Environmentalists swooned. "Graham was the most inspirational part of that triumvirate throughout the fall and winter," Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said. "He was advocating for strong action on climate change from an ethical and a moral perspective."

But, back in Washington, Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill "before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process," one of the people involved in the negotiations said. "He would say, 'The second they focus on us, it's gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it's gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible.' "

Think about that for a moment. The fate of the legislation -- and the fate of our efforts to combat a climate crisis -- was dependent on a cable news network not focusing too much attention on legislative negotiations. Graham was apparently willing to do some heavy lifting, just so long as Fox News' attention was focused elsewhere.

With that in mind, those inclined to blame President Obama for the demise of the bill are overlooking the relevant details here. As Graham saw it, Fox News would have made it impossible for Republicans to go along with the tri-partisan package, and without GOP support, the legislation would be killed.

That's what it takes to govern in the 21st century -- quick and quiet negotiations, motivated by fear of a cable news network. David Frum's quote from last year continues to ring true: "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox."

As a consequence, any hopes of making meaningful progress on preventing a global catastrophe will, barring a midterm miracle, be delayed until 2013 at the earliest.

Steve Benen 10:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Comments

Graham was apparently willing to do some heavy lifting, just so long as Fox News' attention was focused elsewhere.

For some reason, this reminds me of the Lidless Eye of Sauron.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on October 5, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, just great!
Now the Democrats will have to start making young white women disappear just to take FOX's attention away from any pending progressive legislation.

In the old USSR, the people knew PRAVDA and TASS were full of sh*t. But here, a lot of people think Fox is "Fair and Balanced," when it is niether.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on October 5, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Well, therein lies one of the major problems of today.

Once Fox News makes noise about pretty much anything, it dies. They set the media agenda.

I really don't know what can be done about it. People are going to watch/listen to what they want to. I spoke with my grandfather the other day, and he said he only watches Fox News. When I tried to explain that Fox News is a Republican propaganda machine, he insisted that "they have Democrats on" and that "besides, they're the #1 news channel." In his mind, #1 ratings trumps everything. If that many people watch it, it must be truthful.

Posted by: terraformer on October 5, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

The bit about McCain becoming jealous of Graham's Maverick usurpation is priceless. If anyone ever doubted what an obnoxious piece of work that man is, they need to ponder that revelation. It's never been about Country First. It was and always was McCain First.

Posted by: walt on October 5, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

But hey, Ed Henry thought Fox should get a front row seat in the press room because they deserve it for being a legitimate news source.

At what point do they start being noted for what they are, a 24/7 Republican political infomercial.

They should be considered a 527, not a news organization and should be immediately stripped of their press credentials.

THEY ARE NOT NEWS!

Posted by: mikefromArlington on October 5, 2010 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Say, who was it that said he had to court Lindsey Graham so that he could close Guantanamo? Oh yeah, that guy who neither got Graham's agreement nor Guantanamo closed. But that's only one of the fifty campaign promises Obama has betrayed, so who's counting?

Posted by: Tom Allen on October 5, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Tom Allen - Apart from pulling that fifty number out of your rear end, are you assuming that YOU would have been so brilliantly persuasive as to get Graham, Webb, et al to agree to shut down Gitmo?

Posted by: Virginia on October 5, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

I hope Steve benen doesn't have kids or grandkids. Because one thing that I can promise is that future generations will not look back on today's Democrats and find their lame-ass excuses convincing.

If you truly believe that climate change poses an existential threat to civilization as we know it, then you don't take no for an answer. Frankly, I have more respect for the morans in the GOP who don't believe in climate change than I do for gutless Democrats who grasp the science but lack the will to act.

The difference between winners and losers is that when winners hit a roadblock they pick themselves up and find a way around it. Losers quit and tell themselves that losing was inevitable so they shouldn't feel guilty about failing.

Posted by: square1 on October 5, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Lizza's article describes the Obama administration's modus operandi in dealing with the Republicans on many issues, which is to give the Republicans everything they want, and then use that as a starting point for further compromises.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 5, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone remember, regarding the "Mosque (not) at (not) Ground Zero", that Fox News was for it, before they were against it?

Do not underestimate their ability to drive the discourse.

Posted by: DAY on October 5, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

It is interesting to note that Bill Clinton expedited Australian Ruper Murdoch's citizenship application, allowing him to buy the Fox network
Given Murdoch's history with right wing newspapaers, it wasn't unforseen that Murdoch would found a right wing 'news' outlet like Fox News
The Clinton's got regular Murdoch donations in their political campaigns
Thanks, Slick Willie

Oh, and thanks for NAFTA, too

Posted by: frisco on October 5, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

"The difference between winners and losers is that when winners hit a roadblock they pick themselves up and find a way around it. Losers quit and tell themselves that losing was inevitable so they shouldn't feel guilty about failing. "

So Square1 says:

I just note a lack of any practical suggestion on how one gets a US senator who is not willing to vote for something to vote for it. Especially one not in your party. Any tactic that depends on shaming them into voting right is not going to work.

Posted by: tom in ma on October 5, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Fox News(TV) & Rush Limbaugh(radio) in full control of the Republican Party. With that in mind, do we really think anything constructive will occur in this country for the next two years (if not longer?).

Posted by: whichwitch on October 5, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that FOX "NEWS" is

1) Run by Roger Ailes, a key political player from the Nixon administration, which is where the republican dirty trick machine came to be, and
2) News Corp. is a foreign owned company whose second largest stakeholder is a Saudi Arabian whose fortunes depend on our consumption of fossil fuels.

It's a sad, sad state of affairs when Americans' futures are decided by foreign billionaires.

Posted by: citizen_pain on October 5, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

If you truly believe that climate change poses an existential threat to civilization as we know it, then you don't take no for an answer. Frankly, I have more respect for the morans in the GOP who don't believe in climate change than I do for gutless Democrats who grasp the science but lack the will to act.

Square, do you know how simple it is to say no? I dont care you respect for the gop, when they have sixty fools, that say no, its not going forward, and when you have republicans in the democrat party, there is NOTHING, you can do.Fools like you will suddenly vote for the gop to further prevent ANY good legislation coming , and instead let them tear apart any good that has already been done . . .

Posted by: Michael on October 5, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

HATED by future generations, will be our FATE if global warming and oil consumption are not addressed. Gasoline cost aside, when the oil starts to get very expensive all those nice things (drugs, food, electrical insulation, computers, etc) which depend on oil will also become VERY EXPENSIVE.

ALSO, when oil becomes VERY EXPENSIVE the cost of transportation will get very expensive so those nice cheap, goods from CHINA will cease to be so cheap.

AIR CONDITIONING will be out of the question because electricity will skyrocket... Even NUKE energy depends on oil. AS world gets hotter skin cancer will rise because sun screen DEPENDS on oil for manufacture.

AS YOUR CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN sit sweating in the dark, eating poor food, and getting diseases not seen in generations they will curse THIS generation for INACTION.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on October 5, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what to make of Lizza's piece without confirmation from another source.

In the meantime, the most disturbing aspect is that this is how the sausage is made, and just about everyone comes out looking bad.

Posted by: beep52 on October 5, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Using less fossil fuels and clean energy start-ups are a good thing. But the apocalyptic rants regarding climate change 100 yrs. from now are way overdone.
Yes, I do have grandchildren.

Posted by: hornblower on October 5, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

hornblower wrote: "But the apocalyptic rants regarding climate change 100 yrs. from now are way overdone."

They are overdone only in that "apocalyptic" effects of anthropogenic global warming are already occurring.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 5, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

In Australia, the Labor Government's approval rating slumped when they deferred an emission trading scheme. Labor scraped back into government after the august election and the Greens increased their numbers in the Senate.

Posted by: John C on October 5, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

The difference between winners and losers is that when winners hit a roadblock they pick themselves up and find a way around it.

On the other hand, whiners want someone else to keep slamming into the same roadblock because, even if there isn't a way around it, complaining about the style of each successive crash is just plain gratifying.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 5, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's amazing how a single, relatively powerless senator from a small state -- who has lived his whole life on the public payroll, defined himself by not being a "joiner' in the Senate, who failed in several presidential bids and finally, given the nomination because other contenders were so terrible, failed to win again -- has done so much damage to the country and world. His reversals, for pure ego, on DADT destroyed that effort; he may well have derailed repair of the globe and climate past the critical turning point, again for petty ego: he may have doomed life as we know it. All by himself. Was it all because of his ability to make the "hero" label blind opinion makers and pundits, most of them men who probably grew up wanting to be heroes themselves? Was it the barbeque? Amazing.

Posted by: SF on October 5, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

And Obama gives Fox a front row seat in the hope of...in the hope of what? The hope Murdoch will be so grateful he'll be really and truly fair and balanced?

Posted by: Carol from CO on October 5, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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