The moment went viral, heaping global ridicule on Inhofe. Even President Obama called the stunt “disturbing” given that Inhofe chairs the Senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, which oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. But Inhofe clearly delights in the attention, and that’s why Paris organizers had better be prepared.
“I don’t know if I’ll repeat what I’ve done several times before, which is to go over and be the bad guy, the one-man truth squad, and tell the truth, that they’re going to be lied to by the Obama administration,” Inhofe said in October.
The Oklahoma Republican has not yet committed to attend the Paris summit, which starts Monday. “We can’t confirm either way,” said Kristina Baum, a spokeswoman for the EPW, citing possible conflicts with Senate votes.
If Inhofe does show, he’s sure to make waves at the massive United Nations summit expected to be attended by at least 120 world leaders, including Obama, who will propose their plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But other skeptics also plan on showing up, including staff from the Heartland Institute, a think tank that denies human activity is causing climate change.
The “one-man truth squad” routine is not new for Inhofe. In 2009, he briefly crashed a global climate summit in Copenhagen, attracting a flurry of attention from international press. Arriving on the conference’s last day, he strolled through the media filing center wearing black snakeskin cowboy boots. Dozens of bemused reporters gathered around him.
“Most of you are on the far left side, so listen closely,” Inhofe said. “Nothing binding will come out of here in my opinion, and if it does, it will be rejected by the American people.”
Inhofe was asked by Mother Jones’ David Corn which Hollywood figure was responsible for the so-called climate conspiracy. Barbra Streisand, he answered, apparently deadpan. A reporter from Der Spiegel called him “ridiculous.” After several more interviews, Inhofe — who clearly enjoyed mugging for the cameras — wrapped up, reportedly leaving for the airport to return to the U.S.
But there’s no doubt the calculation is more complicated this time. Republicans control the Senate, and Inhofe is the GOP’s most senior legislative voice on environmental issues. As ranking member of the EPW Committee, he could more easily avoid implicating his whole party with stunts like the Copenhagen visit.
But now, what might have been harmless trolling could tweak some Republicans who believe in global warming driven by human activity.
To Inhofe, concerns about his views or behavior are a humorless waste of energy.
“People take things too seriously around here,” he said after the snowball dust-up. “Sometimes you have to be human.”