Circles and Squares

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Mitt Romney on Obama’s failed promise to heal the planet

Republican Party candidate for President Mitt  Romney summed up his strategy in this remark after his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on August 30, 2012:.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

The implications of the use of the past tense in this sentence are profound; “promised to” as opposed to “promises to” suggests that Obama has already failed in his promise. We are not looking at a simple contrast of Obama as a polar bear hugger and Romney as a man who cares about you. If that was the case, there would not be any need to employ the past tense. The implication is on the surface that Obama made a promise he could not keep. That implication suggests that the concern with rising oceans may not be entirely misplaced.

The more profound message to the audience is that perhaps Obama’s promise was not one that could have been kept in the first place. Of course Romney’s promise to help the individual, to help the individual’s family, can be seen as part of America’s long anti-intellectual tradition in which concrete benefits outweigh abstract principles. There is something to such an interpretation of this statement. The implication would be that the over-educated Obama is worried about abstractions that are not relevant to ordinary Americans. This argument is particularly relevant because so many environmental groups in the US have targeted only upper-middle class possible donors and have left behind working class people.

But I would argue that there is a more disturbing aspect to this line. That is to say that Romney suggests that climate change is something that cannot change, that is beyond us, and that the only thing we can do in the face of an existential crisis is to defend what is ours. By extension, we can imagine that the many of those who say that they do not believe in climate change are, in fact, not so poorly educated, but have rather taken a subconscious, or perhaps conscious, decision to back away from this overwhelming question, focusing rather on the here and now. Not believing is like “opting out” of a rather depressing story that is better left to egg heads with nothing better to do than relate our doom.

4 responses to “Mitt Romney on Obama’s failed promise to heal the planet

  1. hoboduke September 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Climate change can be changed! Go South for the Winter and North for the Summer. DUH! The basis of a civilized society requires all to have adequate food and shelter to survive and be allowed the luxury of abstract meditation on solving the world’s mysteries. The biggest mystery is what has Obama done with the $800 billion stimulus money? What has ever become of the “jobs czar” deserted post, and the “jobs council”? Window dressing to pretend Obama gives a rip about such mundane issues as food and shelter for families. Happy the professor can soon devote full time studies to saving the globe when out of office 2013. Perhaps he can join Carter’s institute of wearing sweaters and lowering thermostats from 30 year ago as preventing climate change.

  2. Emanuel Pastreich September 2, 2012 at 2:43 am

    I am not sure what to make of this comment.

    There are two issues, the lack of transparency of the Obama administration concerning the “stimulus” money and the question of whether we can take steps to prevent climate change.

    In the first case, misuse of stimulus money and misrepresentation of activities concerning jobs by the Obama administration is a very serious issue. It would be great if Romney made that the center of his campaign and focused in on these ambiguities. This is what Republicans should do: focus in on what was wrong, what was illegal. Then they will gain our respect. I doubt that our Republicans can do that. They cannot serve as an opposition party and that is the tragedy of the United States today.

    As for climate change, Carter has been mocked for what he said about “the moral equivalent of war” for the last thirty years. The fact that he has been so completely mocked does not mean he was wrong. It means that powerful interests wanted to discredit him for speaking the truth. He was 100% right and we will be forced, after the tragic failure of this current trajectory, to revisit Carter, and perhaps to rank him among our greatest presidents.

  3. hoboduke September 2, 2012 at 4:52 am

    Jimmy Carter stopped climate change 30 years ago. Why are we worried about it now? He turned down thermostats in winter, had us wear our gloves, hats and heavy sweaters at home. He turned off electric lights on public buildings at night. He shut off air conditioners in the summer. He had reduced the speed limit to turtle speed to save oil consulmption. Or did the population of the USA revolt and refuse to do such nonsense? Oh yeah, we shoved him out of the White House and said forget about it. Nobody cares, least of all the record number of limousines used by the executive branch of the current White House resident. He has more czars in limousines and doesnt care.

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