Last night, Suzanne Bonamici and Rob Cornilles faced off in their
only final televised debate of the special election. Ballots go out on Friday, and voters in OR-1 have until January 31 to cast their votes. The O's Jeff Mapes put together an excellent 10 minute highlights video of the debate, which was produced by KGW and the Oregonian. Check it out.
During the debate, Bonamici asked Cornilles directly about climate change. His answer was a bizarre word salad that reveals the core dissonance in his campaign -- how to sound like a well-meaning Oregon moderate while dog-whistling to his hard-core right wing supporters and major GOP funders like the pesticide and petrochemical industries.
Here's his full answer, with my notes:
I think that this is another issue that some people like to politicize.
That's an interesting bit of framing. After all, it's the Republicans that are largely to blame for politicizing what should be a fairly basic question of science. There is no doubt that there is widespread scientific consensus - and yet, most in the Republican Party like to pretend the question is still in doubt.
Science is always changing. I believe that the climate is changing as well. How it's changing, I'm not going to stand here and say that I know. I'm running for Congress, not scientist.
Here, Cornilles echoes a standard GOP talking point. But it's one that lets the framing get away from him. After all, if you're going to acknowledge that you're not knowledgeable about science, then shouldn't you rely on the scientific community to tell you what the facts are? In essence, Cornilles is rejecting the scientific consensus and putting himself in the shoes of the scientists. He's doing the exact opposite of what he says he wants to do. Rob, you're not a scientist, so why not accept their conclusions?
And I also think as you look at science, the fact of the matter is two weeks ago I read that cheese is now good for me. Who woulda thunk it?
I have no idea what he's talking about here. Was cheese declared bad for us at some point? Cornilles should be glad that Tillamook County isn't in the First Congressional District - those dairy farmers would be mighty upset at the implication.
These are serious issues that I don't want to politicize. I'm not going to stand here and suggest that all scientists are in agreement because they're not. It's not up to the majority.
Another internal contradiction from Cornilles. Like so many other right-wing anti-science nutballs, Cornilles hangs his hat on the idea that there are dissenting scientists. Now, there are very, very few of them - and in general, it turns out that the dissenters are typically not climate scientists.
On the one hand, Cornilles throws his hands in the air and declares "they're not in agreement!" and in the next breath acknowledges that it shouldn't be up to a vote. And on that, he's right. It's up to the data, not a vote. And the data is crystal clear - the Earth is heating up, and is heating up faster than ever before.
What we need to do though is focus on what we do agree on as Oregonians and that is - we need to preserve our environment. We need to conserve to a greater length.
Awww, that's a nice cute line. When in doubt, appeal to widely-held values.
And as one who's spent a lot of nights camping with my boys in the Oregon wilderness -- I've spent a lot of nights in sleeping bags; I've never slept in a sleeping bag, but I've spent a lot of nights in those --
I've listened to this line a dozen times, and I still have no idea what he's talking about. Does he sleep in the car while his kids are in sleeping bags? When he goes camping, does he suffer from insomnia? Is he bravely staying up all night protecting his family from marauding bears? This line makes no sense.
-- I can tell you that I teach my kids to be conservationists, to take care of these beautiful natural resources we've been blessed with in Oregon.
Well, that's nice. The Boy Scout ethic and all that ("'Leave it better than you found it.") I'm all for picking up litter from a campsite, but of course, Rob's policy prescriptions are the opposite of that. We're leaving the Earth worse for wear, not better.
And as a member of Congress, I will always remember that stewardship for this part of the world.
Wait, what?! As a member of Congress, you're going to be an environmental steward for Oregon - but not the rest of the planet? Yeah, let's use the rest of the planet as a dumping ground while protecting our little corner of it. And that doesn't even make sense. Oregon's natural resources, Oregon's environment, the beauty and livability of our state are threatened by climate change. It's a global problem that requires global thinking and global solutions.
Suzanne Bonamici's retort?
Rob, it's not what you do in the environment, it's what you do about it. Climate change is serious. Humans do contribute to climate change. It requires a serious approach that I will bring to Congress.
Spot on. Thank you, Suzanne.