As part of his mission to become the most generic Republican possible, Tim Pawlenty has had to renounce his former commitment to supporting the scientific consensus on climate change. This continued at last night's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina:
The moderator announced that everyone should turn their attention to a old radio ad for an environmental group in which Mr. Pawlenty heartily endorses a cap-and-trade policy — practically apostasy in his party.
“Do we have to?” Mr. Pawlenty quipped awkwardly. His voice soon echoed through the auditorium saying “cap greenhouse gas pollution now!”
But in a response that was clearly carefully prepared, Mr. Pawlenty looked right at the camera after the radio ad played, apologized to the American people, and said he had made a “mistake.”
“I’ve said I was wrong. It was a mistake, and I’m sorry,” Mr. Pawlenty told the Fox television audience, presumably filled with potential Republican primary voters. “You’re going to have a few clunkers in your record, and we all do, and that’s one of mine. I just admit it. I don’t try to duck it, bob it, weave it, try to explain it away. I’m just telling you, I made a mistake.”
Because The New York Times presented this without comment, it's easy to mistake it for something ordinary. So, I'll put it this way: Last night, to protect his conservative bona fides, Tim Pawlenty apologized to Americans for previously embracing the plain truth of climate change and supporting measures to curb its potentially disastrous effects.
It's easy to get swamped in the radicalism of the contemporary GOP, but sometimes -- like now -- it's worth highlighting the extent to which Republicans have embraced dangerous policy positions. In this case, Republicans have adopted a near-sociopathic indifference to the lives of people in poor coastal areas. Granted, this is part and parcel of a broader indifference to the plight of poor people (see the Ryan budget), but it's no less disturbing.