McCain's Warming Shot

2008 has certainly been one of the most exciting electoral seasons ever for journalists, with real competition and drama, extraordinary personalities, historical firsts, and Bill Clinton for comic relief. At the same time, it has been a deeply dispiriting period for conservatives, because after the smoke clears there is no prospective scenario for a solid four years of presidential governance.

Republican candidate John McCain delivered a major policy address, and his subject of choice was global warming; “climate change” in its latest euphemism. He unveiled a series of policy proposals designed to cool down the planet. The series of flawed premises that went into this event is a laundry list of human arrogance and stupidity.

Let us count the assumptions.

1) That the world can be made progressively hotter until it is no longer habitable, and there are no built-in corrective mechanisms. This despite the fact that the same people claim that the same world has already endured billions of years of random cosmic experiences.

2) That humanity has the tools to measure and predict the stages of such a slide toward nullity.

3) That there is already enough evidence, at a time when we lead a normal existence, to determine that self-destruction is inevitable. This claim is being advanced in the name of science, a discipline that claims to traffic only in provable fact.

4) That humanity, armed with such knowledge, can arrest this deterioration of the planet by changing smokestacks and driving habits.

Each of these ideas is somewhat silly, but together they are a poisonous cocktail of absurdity. For the Biblically inclined, this invites a comparison with the people who built the Tower of Babel. The classic commentator, Rashi (1035-1105), explains that the builders believed on one hand that the world was doomed to another flood by a design flaw in its structure, and on the other hand that if they could climb up there high enough, they could get it repaired. The lesson is obvious: sane people understand that the world is too big for us to predict, and certainly too big for us to fix. If it really is broken, we might as well just have a good time until it blows.

But putting aside the substance of the global warming debate, McCain’s speech is frightening on broader grounds. There are real problems in this country and in foreign affairs; it is critical that we elect a man who will face them with judgment and resolution. Anyone who thinks that global climate change is the primary issue of our time has his priorities well out of whack. It is something like the guy whose house is getting foreclosed tomorrow, but he only wants to talk about aliens invading Earth.

It is true that Republican strategists believe that global warming has captured the popular imagination and we belittle this fear at our own peril. They may be right to a degree, but their fear of this as a major issue against Republicans is exaggerated; the warming of the political waters on this is not as global as they imagine. At the same time, I am not convinced that Republicans need to mock this too loudly either. They simply need to repeat a simple mantra: The jury is still out on this, but one thing is for sure, we need to focus on the current issues facing our country.

The country would be far better off if McCain beats the Democrat candidate in November, despite our major policy differences. Most conservatives are prepared to gulp and take their medicine by voting for him in November. After that, hope for the best. At least we will not have a card-carrying big government leftist taxing us into oblivion. The scary part is this oddly skewed measuring of priorities. At the risk of making too global a pronouncement, my advice to John McCain, the candidate and climate scientist, is this: cool it.


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