“I was followed around by environmental protesters with signs. They didn’t like my humvees and Hummers and my SUVs or anything that I did, so even when I promised I would improve the environment when I became governor, they didn’t believe I would.Here we are now, 3 1/2 years later, and I’m on the cover of Newsweek as one of the big environmentalists. Only in America.”
He poked fun at environmentalists for not being fun, comparing them with prohibitionists at a fraternity party. Drum roll and another laugh.
It’s been an interesting week or two on global warming. If this is what it takes to get more attention to this issue–some laughs, some self deprecating humor, a bit of bombast–and all this from a Republican Governor and body builder and iconic movie star, great, let’s make the most of it.
I laughed, but for other reasons, when the San Diego Union picked up on a line from his speech and headlined it: “‘Who are the fanatics now?’ governor asks: Schwarzenegger attacks those who deny that global warming is real.”
The article begins:
With his status growing as a national leader against global warming, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday said in a major speech that those who refuse to address climate change are “fanatics.”
Schwarzenegger, the subject of recent environmental cover stories in Newsweek, Fortune and Outside magazines, said the movement to combat global warming has gone mainstream and those who oppose it are now on the fringes.
“So who are the fanatics now?” Schwarzenegger asked during his address at Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall, which was packed with young adults who twice gave him standing ovations. “They are the ones who are in denial.”
I laughed because “the fanatics” are in the Governor’s own party. Only 1 out of 62 Republicans Senators in the Assembly and the State Senate voted for AB 32, the landmark greenhouse gas reduction and global warming bill when it passed last year. The debate on the floor of both houses of the state legislature showed many of our state’s elected Republicans either denying the existence of global warming or that it had anything to do with the actions of mankind.
Yet there was the Governor in another article in the Sacramento Bee touting this as a bipartisan victory:
This afternoon, the governor, whom Newsweek dubbed “the green giant,” will bring this same environmental message to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. The 86-year-old organization attracts insiders who shape opinions and gravitate to government posts. That’s an appealing platform for a term-limited politician now stumping nationally for a “post-partisan” approach to governing.
So, was the Governor calling virtually all legislators from his own party fanatics? Is glasnost coming to California politics? A sort of Sino-Soviet split we saw in the 1960’s and wondered whether it was real or contrived?
By the end of the week there was a sobering article in the Los Angeles Times: “Schwarzenegger’s ‘green’ credentials questioned: Though a national symbol of environmentalism, some say he is unreliable in signing needed bills and too beholden to the oil industry.” Back to reality. But it was fun for at least part of last week. Here is a bit of what this “must read” article said:
He is gaining a reputation as the green governor who is marshaling California in the fight against global warming. But Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the last people in the Capitol to join the battle, and has earned so-so grades from environmental activists.
Each year, the California League of Conservation Voters puts out an annual scorecard that rates the governor on a scale of 0 to 100, based on the environmental bills he has signed or vetoed. Last year, Schwarzenegger’s grade was 50, down from the previous two years when he logged a 58.
Gray Davis, the governor Schwarzenegger ousted in the 2003 recall, scored 75 in 2002 and 85 the year before that.
There’s a lot more of those pesky details in the Times’ article, including his attempts to weaken AB 32 before it passed.
As we look forward, those details may involve a bit of pain–the kind you go through when you lift weights and exercise, but which make you feel a lot better afterwards. This is where we need to focus in the weeks ahead so we don’t just get laughs. Governor, keep the jokes coming if it advances the cause. But let’s actually implement AB 32, and get some of those bills the legislature passed last year and you vetoed, renegotiated and signed into law. We can joke, but must keep these details also in mind so the joke is not on us.
Will your humor work on those fanatics in California who make up about a third of the California legislature? Can you get a few of them to vote for solutions to global warming?