Crimes and Misdemeanors: Part III

Back in April, I suggested that Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) harassment of climate scientists should become a focus of discussion in the 2016 presidential election. Smith’s abuse of his position as head of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and his attempts to destroy the lives of those who have tried to raise awareness of the climate crisis, exemplify the repugnance of the Republican-controlled Congress; the Texas twerp has, of course, endorsed Trump, with whom he shares the view that human-caused climate change is a hoax.

While Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has yet to specifically scold Rep. Smith for his savagery against science, his Democratic challenger, veteran progressive activist Tom Wakely, has not hesitated to call out Rep. Smith for his loathing of logic:

During his primary campaign, Wakely even broached a subject which most of Smith’s opponents have shied away from over the years: the congressman’s Christian Science faith. In a post on his primary campaign website, Wakely suggested that Smith’s religion — which looks to prayer, rather than medicine, for healing — has made the congressman reflexively anti-science and colored his dismissive attitude toward climate-change research.

“They (Christian Scientists) believe pain is an illusion, and if you pray hard enough, that pain will go away,” Wakely told me last fall, shortly after he entered the District 21 primary race. “I guess if you can deny that climate change exists, it’ll go away.”

The pain that climate change has caused won’t go away any time soon (just ask the residents of Louisiana). It’s hard the fathom the level of delusion it takes to look at the abundant evidence of a climate crisis and declare that the evidence isn’t real. It’s almost as delusional as recognizing Presidential leadership skills in Donald Trump.

As for Rep. Smith’s non-delusional challenger, RL Miller of Climate Hawks Vote notes:

[Wakely] is an unabashed progressive, Bernie Sanders-endorsing, Air Force veteran with a strong background as a union organizer and deep roots within the Christian left. Most important, he’s running as a champion of climate science. He’s connecting the dots among Texas’ record floods, the religious imperative to care for what God created, and the need for urgent action. He’s making climate change his core issue…Texas’ 21st Congressional district covers a corner of San Antonio, a corner of Austin, and a lot of Texas’ Hill Country. The district is 30% Hispanic, a factor that matters in the year of Donald Trump (who Smith has endorsed). Smith didn’t face a Democrat at all in 2014. If Democrats have any chance of recapturing the House or turning Texas blue, they need to engage in tough districts like TX-21.

Before one assumes that Wakely is doomed, keep in mind that another shameless red-state shill for the fossil-fuel industry, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), was thrown out of office in the November 2014 midterm elections. Could history repeat itself on November 8?

It would be a profound irony if Rep. Smith lost his red-state seat on the same night that, as expected, an effort to implement carbon pricing in “blue” Washington state fails. Climate hawks would presumably prefer to have both Rep. Smith shuffling off into retirement and carbon pricing on the books in the Evergreen State, but that’s not likely to happen. Of course, if the Democrats do manage to recapture the House in part due to a Wakely victory, and recapture the Senate as well, an economy-wide carbon pricing bill should be a top priority, so that Washington, D.C. can do what Washington state seems unlikely to.

UPDATE: More from InsideClimate News and the Houston Chronicle. Plus, Heather Long on economist Joseph Stiglitz’s call for federal carbon pricing, and MSNBC and the New York Times on the US and China joining the Paris climate agreement.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.