Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What Do Republican Politicians Believe?

Now that the Republican Presidential field is being narrowed, and the remaining candidates will debate tomorrow, it is important for us to understand what they believe.

Rick Perry laid out his ideas in his 2010 book, “Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America from Washington”. Here is what he says about our climate. Global warming is “one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight”. The world’s scientists are promoting a “hysteria of global warming”. In fact, “we have been experiencing a cooling trend”. Perry sticks to these claims. In New Hampshire in August, he claimed, “I think we're seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists that are coming forward and questioning the original idea that manmade global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

In Fed Up, Perry offered his belief that Social Security is unconstitutional, created “at the expense of respect for the constitution and limited government.” Since then he made headlines in August by saying that Social Security is a “monstrous lie”, “a Ponzi scheme”, and reiterated that it is unconstitutional in an interview with Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano.

Perhaps less well known, now that he puts himself forward as a President for all Americans, is Perry’s comment in 2006, after a sermon attended by dozens of political candidates, that he agreed with the minister, John Hagee, that non-Christians will be condemned to hell.

Michelle Bachmann used similarly strong language on climate in 2008: “The big thing we are working on now is the global warming hoax. It's all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.” Like Perry, Bachmann does not believe in evolution and promotes the teaching of creationism in public schools. When asked, however, on a radio call-in show in 2003 about evolution, she displayed remarkable ignorance about the science that she dismisses, thinking it is the same as “spontaneous generation”.

Bachmann’s comment in Sarasota last week about recent natural disasters has been widely reported: “I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?'” God, like the Republicans, was demanding spending cuts.

Her belief that God would throw a calamity at America to promote conservative causes echoes what John Hagee said in September 2006: “Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans. New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God,” because “there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.”

I think these comments by leading Republican candidates are significant windows into their core beliefs. Perry has had plenty of time to consider the positions he took in his book, about which he says, “I haven't backed off anything in my book.” Bachmann has been consistent in her comments about science. Both Perry and Bachmann are completely wrong about climate and climate scientists. There is no cooling trend: the 2010 report on global climate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed that the 1980s were the warmest decade since measurements began, but then were topped by the 1990s, which are now topped by far by the 2000s. Scientists who were skeptical about global warming have been moving the other way as evidence has piled up.

Bachmann’s use of the word “hoax” tells us how she will treat overwhelming scientific evidence that she doesn’t like. Perry’s description of Social Security as an economic hoax, a fraudulent Ponzi scheme intended to cheat the American people, as Bernard Madoff did, provides insight into how he might deal with the necessary discussion of how to insure Social Security’s solvency in the future.

Perry’s and Bachmann’s links to John Hagee, their agreement with his beliefs about Christians and non-Christians, show what it might mean to bring their versions of fundamentalist religion into the White House.

I have focused this essay on some Republican politicians. I believe that Republican voters might well not share these ideas or approaches. Most Americans believe that the main issue facing the country is jobs. Republican Governor of Florida Rick Scott said last month, “Whoever has the plan for jobs is going to win.” Displaying scientific illiteracy or telling disaster victims that their suffering is God’s punishment won’t create one new job. Scaring Americans about Social Security, the most successful social program in American history, won’t improve economic confidence. The fundamental beliefs of Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry make them unsuitable leaders for our country.

Steve Hochstadt
Jacksonville IL
published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, September 6, 2011

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