THE MORNING PLUM:
If there is one thing the GOP presidential candidates who debated in Las Vegas last night can probably agree upon, it’s this. It is self-evidently hilarious — uproariously, mind-bogglingly, thigh-slappingly absurd — that Democrats in the United States and so many other nations are wasting time discussing collective action on climate change when there is the Islamic State threat to worry about.
At last night’s debate, two of the candidates yukked it up about these crazy priorities. Ohio governor John Kasich — who is considered a relative pragmatist — mocked the idea that “they have a climate conference over in Paris,” when “they should have been talking about destroying ISIS.” Donald Trump scoffed that it is “inconceivable” that Obama might think the biggest problem facing the world is global warming.
As Arthur Delany and Janell Ross point out, in a debate that was supposed to be all about national security, climate change was almost entirely absent. More broadly, the GOP presidential candidates have — so far, at least — had far less to say about how they would immediately tear up the global climate deal than they had to say about how they’d rip up an Iran deal on Day One.
Let’s hope it stays this way.
As I’ve reported, a GOP president could do a great deal to undermine the climate deal. He could either declare that the U.S. won’t participate in it, or he could work through executive or legislative action to undermine Obama’s Clean Power Plan, whose carbon reduction efforts could be pivotal to the U.S. meeting its commitments as part of the deal. It’s true that the GOP candidates had previously condemned the Clean Power Plan, but we haven’t heard much of that since the Paris agreement, and there’s been little about the deal itself.
Why the relative quiet? I don’t have a good explanation. One possibility: it is not self evident that vowing to pull out of the deal would prove a winner in the general election, since promising to both roll back action on climate change and withdraw from international engagement to accomplish the same could allow Dems to paint the GOP nominee as trapped in the past. But you’d think vowing to rip up Obungler’s deal with pointy-headed Euro-weenie bureaucrats — not to mention a deal that depends on hoping for cooperation from China, which is also self-evidently, howlingly ridiculous — would play well among GOP primary voters.
Another possibility is that, in practice, pulling out of the climate deal could have all sorts of unpleasant international consequences, and thus, vowing to do so might expose the candidates to tough questions about how they’d manage those consequences. But that didn’t stop the GOP candidates from vowing to tear up the Iran agreement.
Perhaps the most likely explanation for the relative silence is twofold: First, as the GOP candidates’ actions themselves have indicated, GOP voters are far more preoccupied with terrorism than anything else, and in any case, they have historically been disproportionately indifferent to climate change. Second, for the GOP candidates, the climate deal is a self-evident joke. It isn’t binding, after all. And it’s true: The success of the deal over time is anything but assured. Much will depend on the behavior of individual countries’ governments, how investors and the energy sector respond, and so forth. It’s also true that the deal doesn’t do nearly enough to meet the carbon reduction goals that scientists have said are essential, so a lot depends on whether countries will make good on the deal’s provisions for returning to the table and ratcheting up their commitments.
But those admittedly enormous uncertainties don’t mean it is doomed to fail, either. And maybe relative GOP indifference to it is a good thing for its long term prospects.
Perhaps if GOP voters are relatively less exercised about Obama’s climate agenda, that could mean the battle to roll back Obama’s Clean Power Plan — which, again, is key to making a global deal work — could prove less zealous over time than we expect. Candidates tend to keep their promises, so if they don’t end up feeling obliged to double down endlessly on a vow to pull out of the deal, so much the better. The Paris deal is a self-evident joke, so there’s little more to be said about it. Good! Let’s hope Republicans leave it there.
* IT’S THE BUSH REPUBLICAN VERSUS THE POST-BUSH REPUBLICAN: The New York Times overview of the debate offers this analysis of the Rubio-Cruz standoff:
Mr. Rubio has positioned himself as a Republican who would have been at home in the George W. Bush administration, a hawk on national security but a pragmatist on immigration….Mr. Cruz, by contrast, has tried to run as a post-Bush Republican, taking a hard line on immigration while seeking a middle ground between the party’s interventionists and libertarians on defense issues.
Cruz’s post-Bush Republican approach seems to be a calculation that the party has moved forward on national security issues (hardly a safe bet) but backward on immigration (a much safer one).
* GOP INSIDERS SAY RUBIO BESTED CRUZ: Politico surveys insiders in the early-contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada and finds they think Rubio parried Cruz’s attacks effectively and won the debate. As one South Carolina insider put it:
“Rubio got hit harder in this debate than ever before, and handled all the incoming fire masterfully. That said, it’s an open question as to whether his answers will fly with the current primary electorate.”
Of course, “insiders” don’t have the greatest track record in this GOP primary, having repeatedly been continually caught off guard by the rise and endurance of Trump, and continually unwilling to reckon with its true causes.
* TED CRUZ RULES OUT LEGALIZATION: Rubio and Cruz battled over immigration, with Cruz blasting Rubio for supporting comprehensive immigration reform, i.e., “amnesty.” Here’s a key exchange:
RUBIO: Does Ted Cruz rule out ever legalizing people that are in this country now?
CRUZ : I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization.
This is a legitimate difference. Rubio has backed off supporting a path to citizenship, but his new border-security-first approach does not preclude a path to legalization or even citizenship later. Cruz appears to be ruling legalization for the 11 million out entirely.
* ARE REPUBLICANS SET TO CAVE IN REFUGEE FIGHT? The Post reports that a budget deal was reached last night, that funds the government through fiscal 2016 and trades tax breaks for low and moderate income workers in exchange for tax breaks for business. Note this:
[The deal will] put in place new security requirements for a visa waiver program, which the House passed as a standalone bill earlier this month. That has come under scrutiny following the Paris terror attacks. The legislation does not include new restrictions that would prevent Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the country, a provision House Republicans had pushed to get in the bill.
More on this later, but for now, that would seem to suggest Democrats held firm. at least on the question of whether to place more restrictions on entering refugees.
* DEMS LOSE BATTLE OVER FUNDING GUN RESEARCH: The Hill brings us this nugget from the budget deal:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has come up empty in her efforts to eliminate a budget rider that has halted nearly all government research into gun violence for 17 years. The trillion-dollar spending bill…keeps in place the controversial amendment, which Pelosi had told gun control groups was a “priority” in the budget talks.
Another victory for freedom!
* REPUBLICANS MORE WORRIED ABOUT BEING VICTIMS OF TERROR: A new Gallup poll finds that by 53-47, Americans are not worried that they or someone in their family will be a victim of mass terrorism planned or inspired by the Islamic State.
By contrast, Republicans are worried about being victims of terror by 64-27. Don’t worry, Trump will protect you.
* NO, DONALD, PEOPLE ARE NOT ‘POURING OVER THE BORDER’: Last night, Trump opined: “People are pouring over the southern border.” Scary! But the Post fact-checking team sets him straight:
The nation’s population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled to 12.2 million between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million….In 2000, considered the peak of the flood of illegal Mexican migration, more than 1.6 million people were apprehended, according to Department of Homeland Security data. Those numbers have plunged to about 400,000 per year since 2012 and are down 28 percent in the first part of fiscal 2015 compared with last year.
Hah, as if the details matter in the least!