Politics What Reichert Said on Global Warming, and When He Said It
posted by October 4 at 14:20 PMon
I don’t think this post is going to reach the conclusion that the Reichert people hope it will reach. But I do think it will show that there’s a certain political problem that’s freaking Reichert’s campaign out.
Here’s the political problem: On Sept. 27, Seattle Times reporter Jonathan Martin published this story, in which Martin told his readers that Reichert doubts the existence of global warming.
That’s an extreme position for a Republican Congressman in a tight re-election race to be taking—especially when the race is taking place in Washington’s environmentally-conscious 8th District.
Reichert’s campaign is well aware of the environmental concerns in the 8th, which is why it’s spent the last few days pushing back so hard against the Times article (and a similar article in Monday’s P-I).
“This district is very environmentally savvy and this is an issue obviously at the forefront of most people’s minds,” said Reichert campaign spokeswoman Kimberly Cadena, during an interview this morning that she requested to set the record straight.
Cadena asked for the interview so she could tell me that the Times article doesn’t say what it actually says, and that Reichert didn’t actually say what Martin reported him as saying. But before we get to this amazing example of reality-bending push-back, a quick foundation for understanding this whole situation.
There are two important questions at play here. One: Does global warming exist? And two: If it exists, what’s causing it?
Not even President Bush disputes that global warming is happening. In fact, that point has largely been conceded by global warming skeptics, especially since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The question for the skeptics has now become why global warming is happening — Is it caused by humans (as the consensus scientific view holds) or is it caused by natural global temperature fluctuations?
It’s a somewhat interesting question. But there was Reichert in the Sept. 27 Times sounding like an old-school global warming denier, ignoring the current “debate” and telling Martin that he wasn’t convinced global warming was even happening. (For regular Slog readers, I’m sorry to now post this same quote yet again, but it’s necessary for what comes next.)
Reichert’s questions about the existence of global warming are contrary to positions taken by the U.S. Senate, Goldman Sachs, the insurance giant Swiss Re, the National Academy of Scientists and the 100-nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…
Reichert said global warming is a “possibility” but views the science with the same sense of skepticism he held as a homicide detective for the King County Sheriff’s Office.
“I will be convinced when I’m convinced,” he said. “As an investigator, I’ve not been conclusively convinced.”
Here’s what Cadena, Reichert’s spokeswoman, told me this morning:
Reichert has never questioned the existence of global warming.
Huh? I asked her if Jonathan Martin’s article was incorrect.
I don’t think that Jonathan’s article is incorrect at all. I think that you’re reading something into it that’s not there.
What? But didn’t Reichert tell Martin that he was “going to wait until all the facts are in” before he decides on whether global warming is happening? Didn’t he compare scientists who believe in global warming to people who once thought the earth was flat?
“The Congressman has been clear throughout all of his conversations with reporters on global warming,” Cadena told me, continuing:
He continues to investigate the cause of global warming. Global warming exists. That’s the reality.
I asked Jonathan Martin about his take on the reality of his interview with Reichert, and I’ll get to what Martin told me in a moment. But first, because I’m writing this post and I can’t resist, here’s reality, according to me:
Reichert said one thing to the Times on Sept. 27, another thing to the P-I on Monday, and yet another thing in a statement he released on Monday blaming the media for misrepresenting his views. (A confusing blame-game, by the way, given that Cadena now says the Martin article is correct.)
But enough about me. Here’s what Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times had to say this morning about all of this:
I was intending to provide a real balanced look at what Reichert’s environmental record was. There’s certainly elements of his environmental record that appeal to the environmenatlist crowds. But in trying to be balanced, I also felt I needed to point out the Congressman’s questions on something that’s a real cornerstone of the environmentalist agenda…
Martin is referring here to the global warming issue, and he told me he was very careful to ask Reichert two separate questions: Does Reichert believe global warming exists? And if so, what does Reichert believe is causing it? Martin continues:
I tried to be as clear as possible in asking the question in a two-part way. It’s possible he may have misunderstood the essence of my questions, but I went back on the issue with him at least twice during our interview. His position on global warming was crystal clear to me. He just hadn’t been convinced of its existence. I think that’s what the article says.
And just to be clear for Cadena, who suggested to me that I was misreading Martin’s story, here’s what Martin said about his intended meaning:
I was intending to convey to readers that Dave Reichert’s position, at the time that I talked to him, was that the jury was still out on both of those questions. He said the existence of global warming, and humans’ role in it, was a possibility, but that he hadn’t seen conclusive evidence to satisfy him on either of the questions.
I don’t have a huge desire to keep posting on this issue, but I do want the facts to be clear, even if they’re inconvenient for Reichert’s re-election campaign: Reichert’s position on global warming has not been consistent. It has evolved over the last week, from one of skepticism about the existence of global warming to one of skepticism about the causes of global warming.
That may be an uncomfortable evolution for a Congressman in the 8th District to go through just a few weeks before the November elections, but that’s the reality.