Monday, June 13, 2011

Where to Get Accurate Picture?

I’m asking this question: how can we find out the truth about candidates in order to make an informed choice? On Thursday I listed some questions to ask about presidential candidates, and I’m continually in the process of asking those about the current crop. In the meantime, I’m looking at the frustrating situation of campaign and media misinformation. 

Here’s an example—not to defend this particular candidate, but to show the difficulty of learning the truth. Last week in a townhall meeting, candidate Mitt Romney was asked his position on global warming. Maybe the person asking the question sincerely wanted to know his stance. Or it might have been a gotcha question. Romney has a fuller statement on his environmental stance and policy in his book No Apologies, which I haven’t yet read. 

I did, however, read Hugh Hewitt’s biography of Romney four years ago, and I have read just about every major speech Romney has written. Last time around, when it was down to Romney, McCain, and Huckabee, Romney was, in my opinion, far and away the best candidate of that crowd for reasons I could give, but won’t right now. I missed the opportunity to attend his notable “Faith” speech in December 2007; a friend got hold of tickets the night before and asked me to go with her. But I couldn’t make the trip and return in time for commitments I had already made. This was one of the times I regretted my inability to be more flexible. But I did read the speech, several times, and those who rave about Obama’s oratory skill ought to read that speech to be better schooled. 

Up till now I have not spent much time looking at his environmental policy; it just wasn’t top on the list of things that had come up. So I was disappointed when I heard that he’d said, according to news sources, that he believes in global warming—with the implication that he was like all those liberals using global warming as an excuse to place more government controls on our lives. However, almost as soon as I heard the news, someone posted a comment on facebook that he was taken out of context. 

I’ve waited a few days, but I decided finally to get the original answer from Romney, which is still available online (imbedded in this piece). Here’s what he said: 

I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world is getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. 

I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know there’ve been periods of greater head and warmth than in the past, but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants, of greenhouse gases, that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you’re seeing. 

So far, with only that, you could assume he’s a follower of Al Gore. But he didn’t stop there. He talked at length about being against cap and trade-type schemes and carbon taxes that only harm the economy. And while he likes alternative renewable energies, he sees the immediate need to drill for oil and natural gas here in the US, not only as a way to alleviate our dependence on foreign oil, but as absolutely essential for our economy. So, when you hear the whole context, you hear him more closely resembling Sarah Palin’s energy policy than Al Gore’s. 

Was he just trying to cover all the bases? I don’t think so. According to one source I read, he was originally signed on with a cap-and-trade-like compact, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as governor of Massachusetts. The author thought that was damning, but Romney pulled Massachusetts out of that plan in 2005—because it did not have adequate economic safeguards. In other words, he has a long and consistent record of being in favor of developing alternative energy source, but absolutely not to the detriment of the economy, which currently depends on fossil fuels. [Note: Massachusetts had to suffer for that plan anyway, when Romney’s Democrat successor, Duval Patrick, signed on to it i 2007.] 

As I did an online search to find out for myself, I found that every source that talked about this townhall “gaffe” assumed he had said something disqualifying as a conservative candidate. While we may disagree about whether global warming is indeed happening and is at all human caused, I have to admit that there are significant sources out there who believe it—and it takes something of a rebel (which sometimes I am) to insist that the so-called experts are wrong. So if he believes a great many experts, as opposed to a few (and he likely has read a fair amount, because he does that), I can hardly disqualify him for that. But here we have someone who not only wants more renewable energy to be developed—again, something I’m not against—but at the same time insists on using our available resources and protecting our economy. That’s what I want; that is not disqualifying. 

But look how much effort it took to learn what his policy actually is. And I only did the search because I had prior knowledge that led me to believe it was worth exploring beyond the media’s—and also conservative pundits’—assessment of his policy based on a partial quote. 

I know enough, in his case, to know that he has also been quite consistent on some of the other things he has been called a flip-flopper for. Abortion policy is one: he has always been against abortion as an unjust evil against the unborn. There is no change there. But back a decade or so, he chose not to make it a signature issue. He said, in a Democrat-run state, that since Roe v. Wade was the settled position, he would not go against the law, nor did he see it as his obligation to try to fix it as an elected governor handling so many issues. Here is the change: he saw that the issue was so egregiously wrong that he decided that as an elected official he would look for ways to change the situation if he could. It’s a slight and subtle change—in policy, not in belief. And I’m only aware of it because I’ve looked at him a good deal. 

Still, I don’t know that I know him well enough to give an unqualified endorsement. And I’m concerned because I know so little about the rest of the field. How do I get accurate information enough? One consolation is that absolutely everybody in the field would be a huge improvement over the Obamanation currently in the White House. But, really, I want to know who would really be the best. And at this point, all I know for sure is that the media—and those who believe the media stories—are making a concerted effort to keep me from knowing the truth that is essential to know. 

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