Behold! The vast ideological orthodoxy demanded by today's Republican Party is awe-inspiring indeed. Tea Party values continue to act as a malevolent black hole, pulling once-moderate, once-reasonable politicians ever rightward, into its abyss.
No presidential candidate hoping to win the Republican nominee may agree to tax increases of any kind, ever. No matter what. None may tolerate even a whiff of Barack Obama's health care plan, none may dare suggest we offer a path to citizenship for unnaturalized migrants. And, of course, none may suggest that climate change is real. (Never mind, of course, that every major scientific institution in the world, 97% of published climate scientists, and every major government on earth accepts this as one of the most widely scientifically consensed-upon theories of our time)
For a time, the erstwhile governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, dared to fly in the face of convention. He chastised his opponents for being so fervently anti-science, and launched the now-semi-famous tweet reading: "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy". He was rewarded for his embrace of science with the unfaltering support of 1% of GOP voters.
And now, it looks like he's moving to leave his science realism days behind him. Slate's Dave Weigel reports that Huntsman seemed to change his stance when fielding a question at a recent campaign stop.
"The scientific community," he said, "owes us more about… what might lie beneath all of this."Classic climate denier talking points, all. 1) Allege that the science isn't settled; that's right out of Frank Luntz's GOP talking points playbook. 2) Vaguely refer to ClimateGate as an excuse, and 3) call for more "debate" on the subject.
This sounded like a flip; TPM reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro risked the ire of the crowd, which had been told to avoid pure politics, by asking if Huntsman had changed his postion.
"There are questions about the validity of science," Huntsman explained, "one raised by an university in Scotland. I'm asking for clarity, that's all... If there's some interruption or disconnect, let debate play out in scientific community.
This is a huge disappointment, seeing the last reasonable man standing collapse under the weight of extremist right-wing pressure. But alas. Huntsman probably sees one last window opening, after the implosions of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and most recently, Herman Cain. Newt Gingrich, a man who literally served his cancer-stricken wife divorce papers while she was still in the hospital so he could marry the woman he was cheating on her with, is now leading the polls in Iowa. A man who just a couple years ago appeared in a pro-climate change ad with the GOP's arch-rival, Nancy Pelosi. Newt.
'What the h-e-double hockeysticks', Huntsman is probably thinking, 'Why not give this a go? Hell, after Newt inevitably self-destructs, who else is there to not be Mitt Romney?'
Nonetheless, it's a shame. One of the very, very last flickers of scientific sanity in the entire GOP has just been snuffed out.