Can We Depoliticize EPA and Bergdahl Debate? (So Far, No.)



Both Sides Now assumes that a) man-made carbon is accelerating warming & b) the Bergdahl swap was a 51-49 decision. Within these boundries, Lowry/Reagan clash over the EPA rule's "war on coal" & the price we paid to bring home the Afghan War's last American POW. In both, Obama acts on "Yes we can" while GOP critics "Yes but."

*On EPA-Carbon Rule. Ron Reagan concludes that, twinned with fleet mileage standards, this week's proposed EPA rule on reducing carbon from coal-fired plants by 30% by 2030 - "the equivalent of taking 2/3 of all cars and trucks off the road" - is probably the biggest domestic initiative of Obama's second term. "It's too little, too late but a good step that at least symbolically shows the U.S. taking a leadership role - and doesn't everyone say the U.S. should lead?"

Lowry pounces: "It's stupid to engage in costly symbolism by betting that China will follow along and also hurt its own economy. The Right has been accused of being anti-science but here it's the left that hasn't done any serious cost-benefit analysis because reduced coal production by us would simply be replaced by China. We shouldn't hurt ourselves to prick China's conscience because of speculation of what might or might not happen in 100 years."

Now it's Reagan's turn to pounce: "What could be more stupid than doing nothing in the face of the science about global warming?" He argues that if we release an additional 565 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, we'll get above 2 degrees Celsius which kicks in a negative feedback loop that will be unstoppable, yet there are already about 2800 gigatons of known reserves in the ground worth $20 trillion."

The Host asks Lowry two questions: IF China did follow suit (since it generates 27% and the US 17% of all carbon] because of its smogged cities and they share our one planet, would you then say the EPA regulation is desirable? And why don't free market conservatives "internalize the cost of carbon" by cap-and-trade or regulation so the price of the product reflects its full cost? He says that China and "all" other countries should agree to do this first, which he doubts will happen ...and the rise of cleaner fracking is the market's response to the challenge of production and pollution.

"Yes fracking is cleaner than coal," says Ron, "but you know what's even better? Solar, wind and conservation. But then oil and gas companies can't monetize something that arrives free at your doorstep." Also, anticipating trends and rules, many states are already on track to reduce carbon emissions by 30%.

How will this regulation affect Democrats in red states this Fall and Republicans in purple states? Rich thinks it'll clearly hurt Ds like Pryor of Arkansas more than Rs because "what do you say to a coal miner who will lose his job?" Ron counters, "what could be stupider than knocking down the tops of mountains and sending men into holes in the ground to get coal...and what does Marco Rubio tell Miami when it drowns?"

Host: the answer to both questions, IMHO, is why we have one nationally elected officeholder to do what's best for the nation as a whole. And fewer asthama attacks, droughts, fires and flooding -- and solar/wind jobs replacing coal jobs - is supported by large majorities, including even 51% of Republicans, who agree with the EPA rule if it reduces greenhouse gases yet raises electrical rates by $20 a month, according to a Washington Post poll.

As for cost-benefit analysis now and the climate in 100 years: The Chamber of Commerce estimates the costs of the rule to be $50 billion which, taking it at face value, is still less than only the $60 billion cost of Super Storm Sandy on the New York Region and is .03 of the $14 trillion GDP; and science is largely unanimous that, if nothing is done to significantly reduce carbon, it'll keep warming the planet and imposing calamitous costs. Yet climate-deniers like George Will and the WSJ editorial page are still inhibiting many - or any -- Republicans from saying yes there's a huge problem and yes to the EPA. Hence the party is at 'No-No'...or, at best, "Yes But."

*On Bergdahl-Taliban Swap. A President with the legal authority to start a nuclear war is being severely attacked for trading 5 Taliban prisoners in GITMO for the last remaining POW soldier in Afghanistan. Discuss.

First, there's consensus that it's reasonable to negotiate with the Taliban not to reward them but, since they're the enemy, to get POWs returned. Ok, do you two agree with Republican stalwarts like Krauthammer, Brooks, KParker and Rep. Labrador that it's fine to get Bowe Bergdahl back and then investigate if not try him should there be evidence he was a deserter? Lowry doesn't, arguing that his (possible) misconduct could affect the price we pay and, in any event, 5-1 was too high a price. Ron notes that our ally Israel, whose very existence is threatened by terrorists, agreed to exchange 1027 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli soldier.

Two last questions: First, what'll be the net outcome of the arguments we-leave-no-soldier- behind (Obama) vs. releasing-the-Taliban 'DreamTeam'-endangers-troops-and-country (most conservatives); neither would venture a guess. Second, what about the blatant hypocrisy of so many indignant flip-floppers like McCain who were all for Begdahl's release before Obama did it...and Fox News which would presumably be jumping up and down lauding Bush43 if he got an American soldier home to his family. Rich argues that both sides have been hypocritical while Ron doubts that Democrats would do anything like attacking Bergdahl's family were the situation reversed.

Lowry adds that Democrats would be "yelling bloody murder if Bush, advised by Cheney, violated the law by not consulting Congress." Ron disagrees; so does the Host: it's one thing to criminally break into Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office and then cover it up as 29 Nixon aides went to jail in Watergate but quite to delay by a day telling Congress about a secretly negotiated exchange after Obama said in a "signing statement" that, as commander-in-chief, he wasn't constitutionally bound by that restriction.

Any longer political impact? Lowry says perhaps yes if it gives credibility to a hardening critique of Obama that he's incompetent and weak (ACA roll-out, VA, Swap). The Host wonders whether Americans would consider Obama weak or incompetent after getting bin Laden and decimating al Qaeda central by expanded use of drones.

Host: Here we go again. The far-right sees it in its interest to try to Hortonize Obama by assuming the worst about Bowe Bergdahl when a) we've seen the kind of early confusion/fabrication of facts in the Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman and Kerry swift-boat controversies and b) Fox will simply delete stories later when the facts contradict their ideological/rating- driven stories, like lauding Clive Bundy and attacking Shirley Sherrod.

Perhaps the sharpest observation came from @LOLGOP: "Even if Bergdahl did something unforgiveable like approving torture or lying into war, we still had a responsibility to get him back."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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