While most of the overcrowded Republican presidential field is trying to break out of pack by showing they can pander the most to the far right, Sen. Lindsey Graham is daring to show he can move his party into the 21st century:
I do believe that climate change is real ... When 90 percent of the doctors tell you you’ve got a problem, do you listen to the one?
Graham also shamed his fellow Republicans for failing to step up to the climate challenge, and challenged the media to press them on the subject:
Here’s a question you need to ask everybody running as a Republican: What is the environmental policy of the Republican Party? When I ask that question, I get a blank stare.
You may recall that Graham came very close to cutting a deal with then-Sen. John Kerry to establish a "cap-and-trade" system to cap carbon emissions, after penning a joint New York Times oped that declared agreement on basic principles.
An actual compromise bill was drafted. Support was lined up from both environmentalists and oil companies. But a grand announcement was scrapped after the BP spill made drilling regulations a fatal point of contention.
Afterwards Graham, who already taken a ton of heat from the South Carolina right, scurried back onto comfortable denier turf, saying of environmentalists, "I think they've oversold this stuff, quite frankly. I think they've been alarmist and the science is in question."
Since then, he won re-election by a huge margin, and feels freer to challenge his own party's Luddite orthodoxy.
Presumably, his fellow Republican candidates won't see Graham's challenge as threatening. Republican primary voters don't care about climate change, and are hostile to those who do.
But it's not primary votes they have to worry about, it's general election voters who see rejection of climate science as proof of lacking seriousness. As Graham -- an other deeply conservative Southern Republicans -- makes more noise, the foolishness of the rest of the field becomes more pronounced.
The smart thing for Republicans to do is to use Graham's bravery as political cover to moves towards the climate middle, and develop their own strategies for reducing carbon emissions, producing American energy and creating green jobs.
Why would they ever do that? Every fiber of their being tells them to mock environmentalism and anything remotely associated with President Obama
Well, they could take the advice from Bush White House aide Matt Latimer, who says to Republicans in Politico Magazine, "Pull a Costanza. In one of Seinfeld’s iconic episodes, George Costanza resolves to do the opposite of every impulse or instinct he’s ever had. As Jerry sagely advises him, 'If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.'"
On climate, Republicans should pull a Constanza.