Newt Gingrich recently described his 2008 appearance in a 30-second ad with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “the dumbest single thing I’ve done.” Many conservatives share a negative view of it. Ron Paul, for instance, cites the ad as an example of Newt’s “serial hypocrisy.”
Curious, I took a look at the ad, eager to assess its dumbness. Here’s the full transcript:
Pelosi: Hi, I’m Nancy Pelosi, lifelong Democrat and speaker of the House.
Gingrich: And I’m Newt Gingrich, lifelong Republican and I used to be speaker.
Pelosi: We don’t always see eye to eye, do we, Newt?
Gingrich: No, but we do agree, our country must take action to address climate change.
Pelosi: We need cleaner forms of energy and we need them fast.
Gingrich: If enough of us demand action from our leaders, we can spark the innovation we need.
Pelosi: Go to wecansolveit.org. Together we can do this.
Now, I think it’s fair to say I’m not a Gingrich supporter. In fact, a brief but heated post I wrote about Gingrich and the so-called Ground Zero Mosque last year ended up being one of the most widely read items ever on my blog Quicksilber, thanks to a citation by David Frum.
Still, I now rise in defense of Newt Gingrich on the matter of his climate-change ad with Nancy Pelosi.
What exactly is so dumb about it? Surely it’s not the substance of his statements. Look at the substantive parts again:
Our country must take action to address climate change.
If enough of us demand action from our leaders, we can spark the innovation we need.
What’s so objectionable? Is it the notion that climate change is occurring? There is a vast body of evidence that it is, in the form of a long-term rise in average global temperatures. There is also ample evidence that this change is due primarily to anthropogenic carbon emissions.
But let’s say that one is, perversely, in denial about such facts. Well, there’s still a lot to like in what Gingrich has said here. Note that he never says what measures he wants to see taken, other than that it involves “innovation” and it’s implied that he agrees with Pelosi that we need “cleaner forms of energy.”
“Cleaner energy” would be a worthwhile and important cause even if there were no anthropogenic global warming. Coal produces pollution that kills thousands of Americans each year; coal mining also results in environmental despoliation such as cutting off the tops of mountains.
Oil also produces significant air pollution, as well as other environmental damage through spills. Plus, oil presents vast geopolitical hazards, though the location of its sources and supply lines in various volatile and unfriendly parts of the world.
“Innovation” in energy technology would be a good idea even if there were no anthropogenic global warming. Developing cleaner and safer energy sources should be a national priority in any event. The fact that there is anthropogenic global warming means that innovating cleaner energy should be a very high priority.
The only thing dumb about Gingrich’s 2008 ad was that he failed to anticipate that appearing with Pelosi and having even a vague point of agreement with her about energy, or indeed about anything, would be anathema to Republican primary voters in 2012. Other than that, what Gingrich said was smart.