The Republican presidential debates, heavy on personal insults, including uncouth claims about the size of certain body parts, and light on serious discussion of important issues, have been described as entertaining—in the way farcical plays, gross-out movies and train wrecks are entertaining—but of little value to voters.
That perception was reinforced at the debate in Milwaukee last week. But this time it was the fault of the news organization running the event, more than the performers.
CNN might as well have announced that the event, billed as a town hall meeting, was not to be taken seriously when it refused to allow questions submitted by a West Allis man to be asked of the candidates.
One of the questions was, “If you become commander-in-chief, how will you approach the decision to go to war and will you spend the blood of our soldiers only as a last resort?”
CNN had encouraged John Witmer to submit questions, then rejected them because he would not commit to voting for one of the Republican candidates in the Wisconsin primary as apparently required by the rules of the event.
This in spite of Witmer’s undisputed, though tragic, standing to ask presidential candidates of any party questions about the use of the military: His daughter Michelle was this country’s first female National Guard member killed in combat.
Witmer’s questions can now be added to others of surpassing importance to the presidency, the country and the world that have been ignored by Republican candidates and not pursued aggressively enough by their questioners. At the top of that list are any that deal with global warming.
The Republican candidates dismiss global warming as a non-issue. Ted Cruz calls it a “pseudoscientific theory.” John Kasich says if it exists it’s not caused by humans. Donald Trump claims it’s a “hoax.” (Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said it’s a threat to the American people and the world that government must deal with, but neither has given the issue the attention it deserves.)
About the time the candidates were taking to their podiums for their Milwaukee performance, a new and shocking scientific study predicting catastrophic flooding that could lead to destruction and abandonment of American coastal cities before the end of the century was being published.
Deniers of global warming, of which there are quite a few in political circles but almost none in the world of science, have been able to skate by because the full impact of overheating the planet was projected to be an existential threat only in the rather distant future.
The study published in the journal Nature last week brought the prospect of global warming calamity back from the future and so close to the present that people alive today could experience it.
The study found that global warming at its current pace could unleash the disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet within decades and cause oceans to rise by more than six feet by 2100.
Dr. Benjamin Strauss, one of the world’s leading authorities on the science of sea levels, said, “There would really be an unthinkable level of sea rise. It would erase many major cities and some nations from the map.” He added that if emissions of manmade greenhouse gases are not substantially reduced, the next century will be “the century of hell.”
Barring some sort of coup at the Republican convention, one of the five people who are currently candidates will be the next president of the U.S. Three of those candidates reject the worldwide scientific consensus that predicts a cataclysm that will likely kill more people than all the world’s terrorists combined and take more from economies than all of the world’s wars combined if carbon emissions aren’t curtailed.
Perish the thought that something like that would be the subject of a presidential debate.