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July 12, 2007


David Roberts

Yeah, well, there's certainly an element of ressentiment here. Dingell doesn't like getting pushed around by the likes of Markey and Pelosi, and he doesn't like being set up as the global warming Bad Guy. He thinks Pelosi and Markey are full of pious, unrealistic talk, that right now global warming is all positive PR for them and no risk. So he's calling their bluff, and making them risk something -- they either stand behind this tough bill, and show that they really are serious, or run from it and show that they were all talk. You kind of have to admire the old-school brashness of it (if, you know, the world wasn't at stake).

Still. If Pelosi, Markey, Waxman et al want to throw themselves behind this bill and drum up support for it, I'd bet Dingell won't stand in their way, and might even help. But in his heart, Dingell thinks that public concern over climate change will rapidly vanish in the face of short-term energy price spikes. And I'd bet Pelosi and crew fear the exact same thing.

Sooner or later we gotta find out, right? If the public's not serious about this -- if they're going to let this get HillaryCare'd -- then we can't very well blame Dingell for the lack of boldness any more, can we.


Here's what I think.

I, like you, have, for some inexplicable reason, a genuine admiration for Mr. Smith style politicking. In general. I liked watching Harry Reid outmaneuver Bill Frist. I like reading about LBJ's mastery of the game. I think Ted Kennedy is as effective an American litigator as there's been.

But that thing you said about the whole world being at stake....

What I mean is: there are limits to my admiration. Right now, we need somebody much like Ted Kennedy--with Dingell's legisltive powers but an ability to think nationally and even internationally--heading that committee. Barring that, we'd be better off with somebody less adept at dealmaking but with a genuine interest in making change.

I hope you're right (and think you may be) that he'll have his tantrum and then eventually settle down and make nice. But Dingell is something like the gatekeeper at the mountaintop. If he--keeper of Ford and Chrysler and GM--says the jig is up, it makes more waves, I'd wager, than five appearances by Al Gore on the Hill. Right now the last thing something as serious as climate change needs is this sort of infantile intransigence making it seem hopeless.

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