JMH Fact Checks Red State on Romney's Environmental Record

JMHanes, a favorite  poster  of mine at Just One Minute typeblog, did a little independent research respecting an  online posting at Red State about Mitt  Romney which seems to be getting lots of traction . Her effort demonstrates why we should bring to the analysis of such information the same critical discernment we bring to  reviewing any such information from any source. I thought it so good I asked her to adapt if f0r this blog. She was kind enough to accommodate my request:

"Since Mitt Romney's environmentalist record as Massachusetts Governor is clearly going to be election issue, it seems worth taking a longer look at the Red State column on his Troubling Appointments now making the rounds.  The three appointments, and putative Romney coffin nails, are these:

In 2003, Romney chose a hard core environmental activist to be Secretary of Commonwealth Development. In this position [Douglas Foy] was charged with developing  a scheme to restrict “greenhouse gas” emissions…..

Gina McCarthy, the chief EPA clean air regulator, also worked as an environmental regulator for then-Governor Romney. Her role now is as point guard (nyuk) in the Obama Administrations fight to make coal fired electric generating plants extinct…..Another Romney environmental adviser in the effort to regulate “greenhouse gases” is now Obama’s Director of Science and Technology Policy, John Holdren. Dr. Holdren has some exotic views…..

Nothing should send folks looking for actual source material faster than a candidate being taken to the woodshed over someone who "worked" in his administration, or as an even more loosey goosey "advisor," neither of which sounded like "appointments" to me.  After doing so, I ended up thinking there's a cautionary tale about everybody's talking points here.

The Red State author actually raised the first flag, drawing from what the he, himself, characterizes as "oppo research" from the Perry camp.  They in turn relied on an article in the National Journal which now starts out with a prominent apology for how it "incorrectly characterized the nature of Romney’s state climate action plan when he was governor of Massachusetts."  Romney doesn't exactly come up purist roses in that piece, but at least National Journal is a more reliable source than the additional Red State links to Salon and the New York Observer.  Check out the Observer's OWS slide show, if you want to know where they're coming from.

You certainly won't find me defending John Holdren, but what's on offer at Red State qualifies as guilt-by-attenuated-association polemical material in my book.

It turns out, however, that Gina McCarthy was, indeed, appointed to high profile positions by Mitt Romney, although it's worth noting that she was originally installed by Michael Dukakis, from whence she had already worked her way up the bureaucratic ladder during the Weld and Cellucci administrations.  She's apparently a real EPA dragon lady now, but if I had more time (and, yes, I'm clearly trying to see if I can get comfortable with Romney), I'd try to suss out what she actually did in Romney's administration before she moved on to Connecticut.

Douglas Foy initially looked like Romney's most troubling appointment, given Red State's excerpt from the Wall St. Journal.  While Foy may actually have been Romney's most significant appointment at the time, neither the Red State author, nor the Perry site he relied on, note that same Journal piece had this to say about Perry's talking points:

His record in Massachusetts is more complicated than the summary offered by Mr. Perry. Mr. Romney actually refused to join the regional cap-and-trade program his administration helped create. As governor, he angered business leaders and environmentalists alike. But that complexity may be part of his problem among voters seeking consistency or clarity.

From the start of his administration, Mr. Romney set out to reconcile a pro-business political bent with his state's liberal environmentalism, said Eric Kriss, a close confidante of Mr. Romney's from their days co-founding the private equity firm Bain Capital. During the Romney campaign for governor, Mr. Kriss consulted frequently with Mr. Foy.

"Doug was known as a pre-eminent conservationist," he said. "He was broad-minded, articulate, and he believed in the vision we all had, to combine environmental concerns with the need for housing and transportation infrastructure.

There may be plenty not to like in the picture of Romney which emerges from closer inspection of the less agenda driven sources, but I do think the right has been developing a kneejerk tendency to throw any commitment to conservation and environmental protection out with the bath water of climate change and endangered species anti-business, distributionist politics.  Context and timing really are important here:

While "Mr. Romney made it clear he believed in human-caused global warming and wanted a policy response," there are two salient caveats worth voicing.  The first is pointed out by the WSJ, "At the time, many conservatives were open to a cap-and-trade system, seeing it as a market-driven solution to limiting emissions."  The second is that all of this took place before global warming skepticism had even crossed the public radar.  As a marker that folks who have been following the climate change controversy might appreciate, Watt's Up With That only opened its doors -- as a self-described "useful trivia" blog! -- in November 2006, a mere 6 weeks before Romney left office."