Climate Bill: A Missed Opportunity For Obama?
B: True Believers, Power Brokers and the Fight to Save the Planet." And he says that not only did the oil spill complicate the political situation, but President Obama missed an opportunity.
ERIC POOLEY: That said, Obama didn't tell people directly where they should take their anger and frustration over this bill. In other words, he didn't say here's where we need to go to solve this problem, here's how we have to get off oil because of this sea monster on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico that's spewing 60 or 70,000 barrels a day. He left out the what-we-need-to-do part.
: And it seems as though you didn't see the same kind of campaign style push for a climate change bill the way you saw it with health care.
POOLEY: In order to get this done, Obama would have had to engage on three levels in a very deep and sustained way: on the level of public messaging; on the level of policy to really get down in the weeds, pick a bill, a specific set of proposals and drive it; and then on the level of good, old-fashioned politicking. And he didn't do any of those three things.
: It's interesting that you talk about the public image part because there was a little bit of an attempt, anyway, at branding. Sometimes you heard energy legislation connected with green jobs. Other times you heard it described as energy legislation instead of climate change. And the only thing that really seemed to stick was energy tax, and that was from the GOP and Republicans and folks who were against what the Democrats were pushing for.
POOLEY: Well, nobody in support of the bill had the same kind of megaphone that the opponents had other than Obama. The green groups and the senators who were pushing climate action, they can't compete with Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, if you will.
: But do they have the same cohesiveness of mission even?
POOLEY: No. No, they don't.
: I mean, doesn't energy and climate change and all these different things, don't they mean different things even to these groups?
POOLEY: If they had started negotiating that a year ago, they might have gotten it done, but they held out for an economy-wide cap until it was too late, and they ended up with nothing.
: Eric, at the start of the year, President Obama went to climate change talks in Copenhagen and promised that the U.S. would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 17 percent in the next 10 years. So how can the administration work towards those goals now?
POOLEY: Well, it's a tragic moment because the best way to do it was through legislative action, and Obama knew that but wasn't willing to fight for it.
: So what is he left with?
POOLEY: In effect, the utilities decided that they would rather wait and fight this in the courts than have a cap that only applied to the utility industry. And now the environmentalists are saying bring it on. If we can't solve this in the legislative process, we will fight you in the courts, and what you're going to see is skirmishing over coal plant after coal plant after coal plant, and it's going to be protracted and ugly.
: Eric, thanks so much for talking to us.
POOLEY: Thanks for having me.
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