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As the Republican governor of a moderate blue state, Tim Pawlenty became a leading light amongst green conservatives. Along with Arnold Schwarzenegger, he practically blazed the trail: leading his state to adopt good climate policy, he helped secure renewable energy standards and solid energy efficiency requirements. He even voiced support for pricing carbon, and came out in favor of cap and trade.
And then he ran for president. Pawlenty swiftly abandoned all of the above, and retreated on his previous positions. He flopped to the point that he espoused the common conservative lie that scientists are still in dispute about climate change, and that it's all just a natural process. He did so clearly to appease the far right base of his party, which cannot tell the difference between climate science and Al Gore. Now, a growing chorus of writers and bloggers are wondering whether he might flip back to supporting climate action -- and make a powerful gesture in the process. Here's Josh Nelson at EnviroKnow:
It was clear to anyone watching the race that Pawlenty changed his position on climate change in order to win the support of the GOP's increasingly extremist base. He didn't change his mind based on new information or thoughtful analysis; it was a purely political decision ... Pawlenty now has two paths available to him.It's a nice prospect, but it seems pretty unlikely to me. When was the last time you can recall a candidate coming out after a failed campaign and admitting that all the stuff he'd just said were politically-motivated lies? Doesn't happen much, that's for sure.
He can stick to his more recent position, that the science behind climate change isn't clear or that cap and trade would be a mistake, in a desperate attempt to remain viable for a future election.
Or he could do the right thing and come out publicly in support of addressing climate change. In order to do this he'd have to explain that he reversed his position during the campaign because he knew he had to do so in order to have a chance of being a viable candidate. He could tell Republicans and other Americans what he really thinks about the GOP's descent into anti-science extremism, and why he disagrees with it. He could join forces with former Congressman Bob Inglis or Arnold Schwarzenegger to lend bipartisan support to this crucial issue. This would take a lot of courage, but it would be the right thing to do.
But there's perhaps still hope for Pawlenty. He sure did seem to work a lot harder on clean energy and climate issues than he had to, so maybe it does indeed stir a true passion somewhere down in the inner recesses of his soul -- maybe he wasn't just trying to impress left-leaning Minnesotans with his trailblazing greenness. Or, maybe he'll just be another cynical power-seeker like McCain, who has flip flopped away any shred of maverick-ness (and dignity) he once had. There are infinitely more politicians who follow McCain's lead than, say, Schwarzenegger's. But Nelson is right: It would be awesome if Pawlenty came out and told it straight.