Too often in life when someone insults your intelligence or levels some other stinging verbal attack, the best responses present themselves hours, even days, too late to be useful. The French have a term for it: L’esprit de l’escalier (staircase wit).
One of the benefits of being president of the free world is you can deploy a team of speechwriters to help you think of the perfect comebacks, and whenever you’re ready to dish your witty retorts, the national press will line up to broadcast your zingers.
That was precisely the situation Wednesday night, when President Obama, speaking at the annual dinner of the League of Conservation Voters, lit into GOP climate skeptics with a barrage of funny put-downs.
“It’s pretty rare that you encounter people who say that the problem of carbon pollution is not a problem,” Obama told an audience of several hundred gathered in Washington’s Ronald Reagan building. “In most communities and workplaces, they may not know how big a problem it is, they may not know exactly how it works, they may doubt they can do something about it. Generally they don’t just say, ‘No I don’t believe anything scientists say.’ Except, where? Congress!”
“In Congress,” he added, “folks will tell you climate change is hoax or a fad or a plot. A liberal plot.”
Then there are those who if pressed about climate “duck the question and say, ‘Hey, I’m not a scientist,’ which really translates into: ‘I accept that man-made climate change is real, but if I say so I will be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements,’ ” he said. “So I am just going to pretend like — I don’t know — I can’t read.”
The jokes snowballed from there.
“I mean, I’m not a scientist either, but I’ve got this guy, John Holdren, he’s a scientist. I’ve got a bunch of scientists at NASA and I’ve got a bunch of scientists at EPA.”
“I’m not a doctor either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me that tobacco can cause lung cancer then I’ll say, ‘OK!’ It’s not that hard.”
“I’m not a scientist, but I read the science.”
It’s the second time in recent days Obama has mocked Republicans for allegedly being antiscience. Earlier this month, while speaking at the University of California (Irvine), Obama compared Republicans’ positions on climate change to believing the moon was made of cheese, and he tested out a number of the lines above.
Gene Karpinski, the president of the environmental group hosting the event, told National Journal at the dinner that Obama’s mocking tone was “totally appropriate.” And Keith Gaby, who, in his work as communications director for the Environmental Defense Fund, has been encouraging environmentalists to make better use of humor, went further with his praise.
“I think humor is a good way to get people who aren’t paying attention to take notice of an issue, particularly one like climate change that has the reputation of earnest seriousness,” Gaby said in an email. “It’s very much the same strategy the President used when he went on Between Two Ferns to talk about health care. A lot of young people tune out politics, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their future — so you try to reach them through other methods, like humor.”
Comedians have long struggled to find much humor value in environmentalism, and if Al Gore is any indication, it doesn’t come naturally to most evangelists. But at the dinner last night, environmental activists were eating it up, whooping and hollering and pumping their arms.
What We're Following See More »
Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”