Last year, after 10 years at The New York Times, ace reporter Tom Zeller Jr. moved to Huffington Post to cover energy and environment. Part of the enticement, I assumed, was the chance to make occasional forays into commentary and analysis, the kind of stuff that's off-limits for straight MSM reporters. Perhaps he had something to say about what he'd learned reporting.
It's somewhat disappointing, then, to find that what Zeller has to say about climate change is this: "Global Warming Debate Needs Cooler Heads To Prevail." The piece was posted while I was off on vacation and everyone else has forgotten about it, but it's still bugging me. After covering today's national politics, can this really be what Zeller has taken away, these catechisms of High-Broderism?
Like most mainstream U.S. pundits, Zeller is in the odd position of diagnosing U.S. political dysfunction without acknowledging its most salient feature: asymmetrical polarization, the fact that the right has become, in the words of respected D.C. scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, "a resurgent outlier: ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; un-persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."
The extremism of today's right is the defining feature of the Obama era and explains much of what has happened during it, including the toxification of the global-warming debate. But Zeller doesn't see it.