The U.S. Chamber of Commerce can’t catch a break these days. When the Waxman-Markey bill rolled out, it did what it always does: pretended to agree with the goal while recommending changes in the means so drastic that they would gut the bill. See this comical letter wherein it wants to “balance environmental objectives with the need for economic growth and job creation” by lowering targets, increasing free allocations, ditching the renewable energy standard, waiting for China and India to act first, completely preempting state programs, and increasing subsidies to fossil-fuel companies. This is standard operating procedure for CoC, a game it knows how to play. It lobbies for the interests of the corporate class.

But in this case, there’s a problem: many, many business see enormous opportunities in the shift to clean energy. Many businesses want the stability and predictability ACES would bring. And many of those businesses happen to be members of the CoC. In May, several of them, including Nike and Johnson & Johnson, dealt the CoC a very public smack on the nose, asking it to quit speaking on behalf of “business” when lobbying on behalf of a few dirty-energy industries.

This kind if dissension in the ranks is new and embarrassing for the CoC. Its flailing response rolled out last week: a call for a “21st Century Scopes Monkey Trial” that would force the EPA to justify its endangerment finding in court.

Now, before you start mocking — we’ll get to that — step back and think about this from a right-wing hack’s perspective. The point is not, repeat not, to get at the truth of climate change. The CoC doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the truth of climate change. It’s very simple: when in doubt, distract. Start a circus. Hype “the controversy.”

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The idea is to propose something that sounds reasonable on the surface, to the casual news reader, so that the EPA looks defensive if it refuses. It gives the right wing something to make hay over (and oh boy, are they). Most of all, it drags out the faux controversy of the existence of climate change.

Normally this stuff has worked well for conservatives, but a) times are changing, and b) this was a particularly ham-fisted attempt.

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In comparing his proposal to the Scopes trial, CoC’s Bill Kovacs revealed too much. In that case, conservatives had lost in the realm of science, so they relitigated via a theatrical court case in front of a jury with no scientific training. And Scopes lost. He was found guilty. It was less any kind of American triumph than a sad expression of provincial ignorance.

And that’s exactly what Kovacs wants another one of.

Still, he came in for so much mockery that he tried to back off on Thursday, in a National Journal post that is, to put it charitably, rather opaque. He now says the Scopes comparison was “inappropriate” and that the CoC “is not denying or otherwise challenging the science behind global climate change.” They just question whether it’s a danger, despite the clear conclusion that it is contained in … the science behind global climate change. Oh, and the Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA.

Kovacs goes on to recycle the myth of the EPA “whistleblower,” which shows how desperate he is. The EPA has spent a couple years now making a determination, complete with the requisite 60 days for open comment, but Kovacs wants to second-guess the agency staff’s conclusion before a judge. Hell, he’d probably like to treat all regulations this way — in the name of “transparency,” you know. But it would be ridiculous. Government would grind to a halt.

I don’t know how much the public is really paying attention to this stuff. But I can’t imagine this looks anything but buffoonish to the casual news consumer.