The sarcastic bear is loose, and he’s loving every minute of it.
President Barack Obama is letting his inner Don Rickles run free, mocking climate deniers as the crowd who used to think the moon was made out of cheese or spineless dopes who can’t or won’t listen to science even though the science is all overwhelmingly pointing in one direction. Their heads are in the sand. They are members of the Flat Earth Society.
For the White House it’s about getting the liberal base excited for the midterms. It’s a confidence that climate change has shifted in voters’ minds. It’s a broader play against congressional Republicans as obstructionists.
And for Obama, it’s a good time. Wednesday night, Obama ripped into his opponents in front of a League of Conservation Voters crowd so friendly that some were pumping their arms in the air as he spoke.
“It’s pretty rare that you encounter people who say that the problem of carbon pollution is not a problem,” Obama said. “In most communities and workplaces, they may not know how big a problem it is, they may not know exactly how it works, they may doubt they can do something about it. Generally they don’t just say, ‘No I don’t believe anything scientists say.’
Except, where?” he said, waiting for the more than accommodating crowd to call back, “Congress!”
Obama smiled — not his big toothy self-satisfied grin, but his stick-it-in-the-ribs smirk.
“In Congress,” he said. “Folks will tell you climate change is hoax or a fad or a plot. A liberal plot.”
Then, Obama said, there are the people who duck the question. “They say, hey, I’m not a scientist, which really translates into, I accept that man-made climate change is real, but if I say so out loud, I will be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements that thinks climate science is a liberal plot so I’m going to just pretend like, I don’t know, I can’t read,” Obama said.
“I mean, I’m not a scientist either, but I’ve got this guy, John Holdren, he’s a scientist,” Obama added to laughter. “I’ve got a bunch of scientists at NASA and I’ve got a bunch of scientists at EPA.”
“I’m not a doctor either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me that tobacco can cause lung cancer, then I’ll say, okay. Right? I mean, it’s not that hard,” Obama said, managing not to mention that he kept smoking himself at least through his first term.
If Obama’s talking about regulations, he’s losing. If he’s talking about carbon caps for power plants or energy emissions for air conditioners, no one cares. But if he’s talking about crazy Republicans who don’t make any sense — and by the way, are putting children at risk, he charges — well, that’s an argument he can wrap his arms around.
“Humor is a very, very good thing — especially in a place where voters just don’t understand why folks in Washington don’t get what they get,” said White House political director David Simas, ahead of Obama’s speech.
There isn’t much to lose for the White House here. The Republicans aren’t coming back to work on a new cap-and-trade bill and they’re not going to praise his new EPA rules on power plant emissions no matter what.
But this isn’t just about climate change. As confident as Democrats are that they can gin up suburban moms and inner-city voters by really leaning into the argument about children with asthma that Obama chose as the framing for how he talked about the emissions rules earlier this month, they believe they’ve got an opening to an argument that gets at the heart of the attack they’re trying to make on Republicans for November.
“To stand in the way of action on this puts you on the side of polluters — I think that’s a very simple dynamic,” Simas added. “People are in a problem solving mode—‘Washington, do something!’ And not only are they saying no, but denying that the problem exists at all — that comes off as detached, out of touch and sticking to their talking points.”
Barack Obama becomes mocker-in-chief on climate change skeptics - Edward-Isaac Dovere and Andrew Restuccia - POLITICO.com (external - login to view)