The Senator and the Sierra Club

The exchange between U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Sierra Club president Aaron Mair during an Oct. 6 Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing was a brief flash in the news cycle. Was it also a debate about climate change?

The subject was to have been the impact of federal regulations on minority communities. The junior senator from Texas turned it into something else — a desultory grilling of Mair in which he brought out some old sawhorses from the climate denial tool shed. Here is the exchange:

Sierra Club board member Donna Buell posted this on Facebook after the hearing:

Donna Buell FB Snippet 10-09-15

Mair was quick to reply on behalf of the Sierra Club:

View the entire two-hour hearing if you have the stomach for it here.

Cruz asserted in an Oct. 7 press release he “proved, contrary to liberal assertions that man-caused climate change is ‘settled science,’ that there is still a healthy and vigorous debate about the causes and nature of climate change based on the data and scientific evidence.”

So does Cruz picking a fight indicate debate? Decidedly not. In fact, as Mair pointed out in his video response, Cruz’s claims during the hearing have been debunked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency over which Cruz has oversight in his role as chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

What’s this about?

It is about the attempt of right wing politicians like Cruz to hijack reasonable discussion among people with differing opinions in favor of a personal agenda.

On Oct. 12, I was part of a Sierra Club panel of presenters in which I suggested attendees could continue the discussion Cruz and Mair started by bird dogging Cruz in Washington, Iowa Wednesday morning.

Miriam Kashia, a veteran of the Great March for Climate Action, raised her hand and said, “I’ve done that.”

She reported the incident in an Oct. 13 guest opinion in the Iowa City Press Citizen,

Then, during a media interview with Sen. Ted Cruz speaking about the terrorist threat, I jumped in and asked him, “What is your response to the fact that the Pentagon tells us that climate change is the biggest threat to America’s security?” His response, “You don’t have the right to ask any questions, because you’re not a member of the media.” The media, meanwhile, was not doing its job.

Statements by Cruz and his ilk so often go unchallenged. People agree with him, and in Texas helped elevate him to power in 2012. His supporters are vocal and much of what is said serves the conservative agenda or it doesn’t get heard. I don’t doubt there is a Cruz community that buys into his world view, even though it appears to be based in something other than reality.

What becomes clearer each time people like Cruz are examined is nothing is behind the verbiage but vapidness. Sarah Beckman pointed this out about Cruz in an Oct. 13 post on Iowa Starting Line.

If you spend enough time with Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, you start to get the feeling that there is something “off” about him. His long pauses, his forlorn looks out into the audience, his deep crescendos and trailing whispers, his odd pop culture references. They all paint the picture that Cruz is maybe not as honest and authentic as he lets on while campaigning.

Never is Cruz talking about what we have in common, about how we can live better with each other, or how we solve the greatest problems of our time, like mitigating the causes of global warming.

Elections matter, and when the electorate elevates people like Cruz to positions of power over NASA, NOAA and the government’s scientific bodies, we are doing ourselves no favors.

If readers plan to move to Texas to sort out this mess, and elect someone who will enter the arena to fight for all of us, then God bless. I don’t see that happening.

Cruz gives us reason enough to engage in politics. Leaving important political work to others helped produce Senators Cruz, Ernst and Grassley, and the troubled time in which we live.

There is a better way, and it’s up to us to find and follow it.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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