Proof That the Left Is Ready for a Clinton Presidential Run

Progressives’ fast pushback against Rand Paul shows they’re determined to give Hillary Clinton the upper hand politically on climate change.

Senator Hillary Clinton listens to questions during her confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 13, 2009.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Sept. 6, 2014, 1 a.m.

At mid­day Fri­day I pos­ted a short item about GOP Sen. Rand Paul bash­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton over cli­mate change.

Clin­ton called cli­mate change “the most con­sequen­tial, ur­gent, sweep­ing col­lec­tion of chal­lenges we face.” Paul ac­cused Clin­ton of want­ing to battle cli­mate change in­stead of ter­ror­ism.

It was a note­worthy ex­change between a pair of po­ten­tial 2016 con­tenders, but the dis­agree­ment it­self is not par­tic­u­larly sur­pris­ing: Clin­ton is a long­time pro­ponent of cli­mate ac­tion. Paul is a crit­ic of Clin­ton’s and lives on the oth­er side of the par­tis­an di­vide.

It was what happened next that caught my eye: Shortly after Paul’s re­marks, a pro-Clin­ton “rap­id re­sponse” group called Cor­rect The Re­cord cir­cu­lated a state­ment at­tack­ing the Ken­tucky sen­at­or. They also emailed me per­son­ally to (po­litely) in­quire if I might add it to Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s story.

And they wer­en’t alone.

Later in the af­ter­noon, the League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters chimed in with a de­fense of Clin­ton’s re­marks at a green-en­ergy con­fer­ence Thursday night in Nevada, claim­ing that Paul’s re­sponse “re­flects a pro­found lack of un­der­stand­ing of how ser­i­ous a threat” cli­mate change poses.

Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate, the group backed by bil­lion­aire green act­iv­ist Tom Stey­er, also went after Paul for his stance on glob­al warm­ing: “A real threat would come from a sci­ence-den­ier as the lead­er of the free world.”

It re­mains to be seen wheth­er Clin­ton will run in 2016—she says she’ll de­cide early next year. But Fri­day’s press flurry demon­strates that en­vir­on­ment­al groups and oth­ers on the left are already circ­ling the wag­ons be­hind their po­ten­tial front-run­ner. And it’s demon­strat­ive of the cam­paign in­fra­struc­ture that would be await­ing Clin­ton the mo­ment she entered the race.

So what did Paul say that set off the green fury?

He at­tacked Clin­ton dur­ing a Fox News in­ter­view about bat­tling the rad­ic­al Is­lam­ist group IS­IS, ar­guing: “For her to be out there say­ing that the biggest threat to our safety and to our well-be­ing is cli­mate change, I think … goes to the heart of the mat­ter or wheth­er or not she has the wis­dom to lead the coun­try, which I think it’s ob­vi­ous that she doesn’t.”

That promp­ted en­vir­on­ment­al­ists to of­fer re­mind­ers of mil­it­ary plan­ners’ warn­ings about the se­cur­ity di­men­sions of cli­mate change. They said:

“Rather than re­peat­ing tea-party and Koch Broth­ers talk­ing points to deny the sci­ence of cli­mate change, Sen­at­or Paul would be bet­ter served read­ing the De­part­ment of De­fense’s latest Quad­ren­ni­al re­view, which re­cog­nized that the im­pacts of cli­mate change like ex­treme weath­er, drought, and sea-level rise will act as ‘threat mul­ti­pli­ers that will ag­grav­ate stressors abroad such as poverty, en­vir­on­ment­al de­grad­a­tion, polit­ic­al in­stabil­ity, and so­cial ten­sions—con­di­tions that can en­able ter­ror­ist activ­ity and oth­er forms of vi­ol­ence.’ “

Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate, which is bil­lion­aire cli­mate act­iv­ist Tom Stey­er’s group, also made the mil­it­ary link in a state­ment titled “Sci­ence-Den­ier-In-Chief Rand Paul Thinks He Knows Bet­ter Than the Mil­it­ary.”

“Rand Paul, listen to the four-star gen­er­als: 16 re­tired three- and four-star gen­er­als and ad­mir­als is­sued a re­port and iden­ti­fied cli­mate change as a ‘cata­lyst for con­flict,’ ” the group said in a state­ment.

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