Entry from February 22, 2010

Walter Russell Mead’s piece in The American Interest titled “How Al Gore Wrecked Planet Earth” should be required reading for all the global warmist crowd — though of course they won’t read it. Or, if they do, they won’t take its lessons to heart. The very self-righteousness of which Mr Mead so eloquently complains will prevent it.

A year ago they were the last, best hope of the world, a shining band of brothers (and sisters) who were saving the planet and taming the excesses of self- destructive capitalist greed. The Force was with them and the world lay at their feet. They were going to be greeted as liberators by a grateful world desperate to be saved. Now they are just another piece of roadkill on the heartless historical highway — an unforgiving place for people who seek to change the behavior of the world through comprehensive treaties, like the nuclear freeze proponents before them and like the advocates of the Grand Global Treaty Against War in the 1920s. (And at least the 1920s peace movement got its Grand Global Treaty: the 1929 Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawed war forever, sparing all future generations from this terrible scourge.)

And why this stunning reversal for the warmist juggernaut? Mr Mead is in no doubt that “the wounds from which it is bleeding so profusely are mostly its own fault. This phase of the climate change movement was immature, unrealistic and naive. It was poorly organized and foolishly led. It adopted an unrealistic and unreachable political goal, and sought to stampede world opinion through misleading and exaggerated statements. It lacked the most elementary level of political realism” — something you’d think people would have noticed before now.

Frankly, I blame Al Gore. Unlike naive scientists who know little about life beyond the lab, or eco-activists whose concepts of the international political system come from writing direct-mail solicitations to true believers in rich countries, the former vice-president had decades of experience with high politics. It was his job to provide the leadership that could channel the energy and concern of this movement into an effective political program.

Why, then, did it seem that he really had no interest in an effective political program but only in the self-aggrandizement that came from his becoming the movement’s pitchman to the public? “Ultimately,” as Mr Mead writes, the most telling argument against global warming is the lack of seriousness with which the greens themselves have approached the issue” — a point I tried to make less succinctly in my review of An Inconvenient Truth.

But there is more to the matter than the stupidity of this particular bunch of “progressives.” It lies in the assumptions of progressivism itself, which have increasingly been adopted by the media, that politics is really morality in disguise, that there is no more real political “debate” but only good guys and bad guys, progressives and “reactionaries” — a word resurrected from the old Marxist movements with which they share a historicist faith. Obviously there can be no compromise with the devil, even when the most elementary sense of political reality, as Mr Mead points out, requires compromise. Increasingly, the left and their allies in the media have become the prisoners of their own moralistic rhetoric and, apparently, they have no means of escape from it even when it leads them to electoral disaster.

We are seeing the same process at work in President Obama’s inability to compromise over health care. His merely cosmetic attempts at “bipartisanship” — the Republicans are invited to his Blair House conference, but he has already made it clear that the outcome is largely predetermined — are themselves examples of the same moralism that got him into trouble in the first place and equally confined to rhetoric. The one thing he still has going for him, politically, is his firm alliance with the media, who have bought into his moralized politics in a big way and are consequently as blind to political reality as himself. Maybe they’ll succeed in inducing enough people to live with them in their Fool’s Paradise long enough for Mr Obama to be re-elected, but at the moment you’d have to bet against it.


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