Sorry, but there’s no reason to pick up the pom-poms for Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-ME), whose votes were admittedly crucial to stopping the latest right-wing scheme to destroy President Obama’s climate-protection efforts. Let’s not label them climate hawks just yet, OK?
McCain lost his credibility on this issue eight years ago, when he abandoned his longstanding support for federal legislation to reduce carbon pollution. McCain stuck his middle finger in the faces of future generations out of spite, a betrayal that can never be forgotten.
Just over a year later, McCain’s tag-team partner Graham also scorned those concerned about a stable future for their kids, walking away from bipartisan climate legislation in the Senate–also out of spite. Graham’s devious action precipitated the collapse of that legislation…and seven years of inaction on the most immediate threat to our planet.
As for Collins, in December 2009 she joined with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to back innovative carbon-pricing legislation, but in the years since she has left climate leadership to Democrats such as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
When McCain, Graham and Collins recommit to strong carbon-pricing legislation, then and only then will they deserve kudos from the public. Have these three Republicans said one word about the carbon-pricing proposal backed by former GOP Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker? Have they spoken in favor of the ideas of the Partnership for Responsible Growth, which supports “market-based” efforts to reduce carbon emissions? Have they suggested that former Cato Institute figure Jerry Taylor is a far more credible voice on climate than, say, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt? (Of course, Graham voted to confirm Pruitt, which tells you something about his judgment.)
Most importantly, have these Senators apologized for having abandoned efforts to forge a bipartisan solution to the problem of carbon pollution? No, and they never will. They have too much pride to do so.
Pride and spite. These two forces are as powerful as every dollar in ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods’s bank account. It was pride and spite that led these Senators away from the bipartisan negotiating table on carbon emissions. They could have become heroes of history had they stuck it out and continued to fight for a stable climate. What did they have to lose? Were these particular Senators really at risk of losing primaries to far-right challengers?
McCain, Graham and Collins effectively abandoned Republicans like former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) in their time of need. I’m sure Inglis would have appreciated McCain, Graham and Collins standing up for him over the past few years, fighting on the inside while he fought on the outside, pushing and prodding and doing whatever it took to advance carbon-reduction efforts in the Senate (presumably a slightly easier task before Republican climate deniers took over the Senate in 2014). However, they couldn’t be bothered.
Yes, McCain, Graham and Collins demonstrated responsibility this time. However, would you really trust them to do so again? They went AWOL in the battle for a healthy future seven years ago, turning their backs on our children and grandchildren, just as the Trump administration is doing now. They could always say they’re sorry. Then again, the glaciers will stop melting before that happens.