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Wednesday, October 4, 2006

What Reichert Said on Global Warming, and When He Said It

posted by on October 4 at 14:20 PM

This long post comes to you courtesy of the Dave Reichert re-election campaign, which requested a follow-up to my post from yesterday about Reichert’s views on global warming.

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.

RSS icon Comments


The thing is, Reichert's job right now is to stay on message. But it's hard, because you have to keep track of what you're supposed to say you believe. Reichert, like most people, has been hearing about this global warming business for some time now, but like a lot of people he can't remember if he's supposed to believe in it or not. He screwed up and said the wrong thing. Now his campaign spokesman has to cover his ass. But you won't leave the poor man alone, Josh! You act as if Reichert is supposed to know things or believe things or have any mental activity at all without approval from his operators, AND THAT'S JUST NOT RIGHT.

Posted by Fnarf | October 4, 2006 2:43 PM

The Stranger staff flies around on plane a lot. Please consider how this is damaging the earth. The Republicans want everyone to ignore the damage air travel does to the environment.

So please no flying simply for pleasure, and if you must fly do it on a biodiesel fueled plane.

Posted by Kimberly | October 4, 2006 2:58 PM

I'm sorry, which of his many lies are we talking about now - I've lost track ...

Is it about money from Alaska, the meaning of the word Truth, the meaning of the word Civil War, the meaning of the word Lobbyist, or are we on another subject?

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 4, 2006 2:59 PM

The confusion isn't accidental.

The only way Republicans can win in Washington is if they don't let people know what they stand for. They'll blow lots of smoke into the air and then when no one can figure out what they stand for, say "The liberal media is just trying to score points while we're fighting to protect America's security."

The message people are supposed to take away from this whole mess is that the Time, PI and Stranger are all lying about Reichert's stands on the issues.

Whatever they are.

Posted by Aexia | October 4, 2006 3:03 PM

Isn't there an old "John Kerry flip-flopping" commercial gathering dust somewhere? Maybe Darcy Burner can dig it out and Photoshop Reichert's face over Kerry's.

Posted by him | October 4, 2006 3:08 PM

Reichert, who probably doesn't believe in Evolution either, has obviously been "evolving" and revolving (he might understand that as "revolving" sounds like "revolver" and, well, he's The Sheriff!) around the issue enough to make anyone's head spin!

It appears that when he said he would be convinced when he is convinced I suspect that really meant when he sees the political backlash turning the tide against him and his handlers tell him to.

Posted by Daniel K | October 4, 2006 3:10 PM

Maybe two-part questions are too difficult for Reichert. Maybe next time the Times should just present a simple Yes/No questionnaire.

Circle one (ONLY ONE DAVE):
Global warming exists: Yes / No
Humans are causing global warming: Yes / No
r u horny? r u hard as rock yet?: Yes / No

(Sorry, I don't know how that last one got in there. I'm a recovering meth addict and was abused by a metro bus driver.)

Posted by Clifton | October 4, 2006 3:15 PM

Has anyone not yet noticed the obvious?

Why does Dave need Ms. Cadena to explain or clarify his position?

Can't Dave explain this to the media hiimself? It's not as though he can't do this in a very short amount of time. And they're his words, his statement - surely he knows what he means and can say so with little effort.

Or is it that his own campaign simply doesn't trust Dave to explain it properly?

Posted by palamedes | October 4, 2006 4:12 PM

Lets not forget the reason the US still refuses the Kyoto protocols... as Bush's stance has not changed... the regulations would impact Big Business profit... all those scrubbers, R&D, building modifications, etc. cost money. And Repubs are all about smoothing government out in favor of big business. Every time.

Posted by Phenics | October 4, 2006 4:13 PM

But I caught the Green River Killer!!! What more do you yokels want?

Besides, I'm naked on my webcam! Check it out!!

Posted by dave reichert | October 4, 2006 7:52 PM

Reichert's spokeswoman is named Kimberly?! Poor woman...

Posted by gnossos | October 4, 2006 8:07 PM

Now I am confused. Does Reichert exist, or not?

And if Reichert is real, are humans to blame?

Posted by RonK, Seattle | October 5, 2006 9:00 AM

Dave Reichert was created fully formed by our Lord 6,000 years ago to fight crime and Democrats.

Any evidence he gestated within a human being was planted there by Lucifer (and Darcy Burner) to deceive us.

Posted by Aexia | October 5, 2006 11:51 AM

John Martin's story exactly matches what the Sierra Club endorsement committee heard with its own ears -- that Dave Reichert thinks thousands of scientists who have spent their lives studying climate may well be wrong.

Our endorsement committee was shocked to hear Reichert's very firm doubts on global warming -- especially since he sits on the House Committee on Science. So, we asked him the question several ways, and gave him the chance to take it back. I also discussed the matter with his staff and sent Dave peer-reviewed articles outlining the scientific global warming consensus. I also asked for the names of scientists who Dave felt presented a legitimate case against global warming, the idea being that it would be easy for us to show him that most climate doubters are either non-experts or funded by oil companies (we never got those names).

In the end, Reichert's position did not shift; it was clear to us that the investigator was not interested in the evidence.

Scott Otterson
Sierra Club Political Chair, Cascade Chapter

Posted by Scott Otterson | October 5, 2006 12:25 PM

Great Irony: Dave Reichert is on the House committee on Science.

Posted by Bill | October 18, 2006 10:58 PM

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