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Kerry and Gingrich Hugging Trees -- and (Almost) Each Other

Gingrich protested this mischaracterization. "We're not arguing over whether it should be urgent," he said.

Kerry persisted: "We're arguing over the level of the urgency."

"The question of urgency isn't what's being debated here," Gingrich repeated.

Finally, Kerry relented. "I'm excited to hear you talk about the urgency," he said. But "what would you say to Senator [Jim] Inhofe [R-Okla.] and to others in the Senate who are resisting even the science?"

Gingrich didn't hesitate. "My message," he said, "is that the evidence is sufficient that we should move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon loading of the atmosphere." The pro-Kerry crowd applauded.

"And do it urgently?" the senator pressed.

"And do it urgently, yeah," the former speaker replied. "I think there has to be, if you will, a green conservatism," he added.

Kerry didn't know quite what to do with his agreeable opponent. "I'm a little confused about sort of where Newt comes from on this," he said at first. Later, Kerry tried to switch places with Gingrich, branding him a big-government liberal. "You know, this is a huge transition," he exclaimed. "You actually want the government to do it. I want the private sector to do it."

By the end of the debate, Lincoln/Kerry was embracing Douglas/Gingrich as a global-warming ally, saying things such as "What we need to do is what Newt just said."

"I'll lay odds if Newt Gingrich and I were responsible for making this happen, we could get in a room and in a week, we'd come up with a program and make it happen," Kerry ventured.

Gingrich nodded. Moments later, he held up his new friend's book again. "I'm going to sell a few more books for you, John," he promised.

Political researcher Zachary A. Goldfarb contributed to this report.

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