Newt Gingrich is gunning to become our first nerd president, and obviously a nerd president's first order of business is securing voting rights for the moon. (Maybe right after knighting George Lucas.) Gingrich wants to establish a "permanent base on the moon" by the end of his first term, and once it has 13,000 people he'd like to make it a state. He'll probably even volunteer to help get the population numbers up by impregnating hot moon babes.
During Obama's State of the Union speech, Democracy Corps ran a dial-test focus group. Fifty swing voters were given devices that let them register approval or disapproval continuously throughout the speech. Two results in particular are worth highlighting.
Overall, there was a striking degree of unanimity, quite in contrast to the polarization in Washington. Reactions to the speech split along party lines on only a few issues. The most interesting split came during the section of the speech on energy:
Clean energy rocks. Nice, deserving people get jobs at wind-turbine plants. Solyndra-style investments are critical. Oil-industry subsidies suck. Energy efficiency is an economic engine. We need to drill, baby, drill. And we need to frack, baby, frack.
Those weren't the words, but those were the sentiments in the energy portion of President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday night. He dedicated a significant chunk of the speech to energy issues, making an unexpectedly vigorous appeal for renewable power, cleantech investment, and efficiency -- as well as for natural-gas fracking and oil drilling.
In Tuesday's State of the Union address, President Obama is likely to focus heavily on economic growth and job creation. But he should also make clear that economic progress need not come at the expense of the environment; to the contrary, the public-health efforts he's made over the past year will generate billions of dollars in value for the American public.
In a preview of the speech, Obama suggested there will be some focus on energy -- hardly surprising since the Keystone XL pipeline and congressional inquiry into Solyndra were such high-profile issues in the past year. The administration's decisions on environmental regulation this past year made news too -- the delays and punts that angered environmentalists, like the ozone standard and coal ash rule, and the public-health protections that have angered industry, like the mercury rule.
Energy even boiled over into the presidential campaign recently: The Obama-Biden 2012 campaign's first TV ad of the season was something of a rebuttal to the president's critics in the energy industry.
With energy and environmental topics in the news, and many Americans confused about their impact on jobs, it makes sense that the president would want to give more airtime than usual to these issues in his speech.
In the 1990s, the Gingrich Congress tried to shut down the Department of Energy (DOE), slash all clean energy research, stop the joint government-industry effort to develop a super-efficient hybrid car, and zero out all programs aimed specifically at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating technology deployment.
He didn't succeed -- but he did stop the significant expansion of clean energy funding Clinton-Gore had begun. And he did force the DOE to sharply scale back its programs aimed at clean energy deployment and greenhouse gas reduction.
Newt Gingrich has been all over the map on climate change. Instead of trying to pinpoint all his many stances from over the years (who even has that many pins?), I'll just highlight a few key moments.
In 2008, when the cool kids were at least feigning concern for climate change, Gingrich appeared with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a TV ad for Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection. “[O]ur country must take action to address climate change,” Gingrich solemnly proclaimed.
Not that this is the most ridiculous Gingrich news in the last few days or anything, but it's pretty amusing: Evidently "metro-riding" is the Gingrich equivalent of "arugula-eating."
“Those who, you know, live in high-rise apartment buildings writing for fancy newspapers in the middle of town after they ride the metro, who don’t understand that for most Americans the ability to buy a home, to have their own property, to have a sense of belonging is one of the greatest achievements of their life, and it makes them feel like they are good solid citizens,” he told the crowd.
This is the second of two stories examining President Obama’s record on urban issues. Read the first here, and read about the Republican presidential candidates' positions here.
The conversation about cities today often centers on “creative class” innovation, urban design, and transportation alternatives. But it’s going to take a whole lot more than flashy New Urbanist condo developments and bamboo bikes (awesome though they are) to turn American cities around. Deep seeded social and economic issues still cripple much of urban America, ranging from abysmal public schools to a criminal justice system that creates huge race and class disparities.
President Obama gets this, at least on paper. Here he is in a speech, made on the campaign trail in 2008, talking about poor urban neighborhoods: