Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., center, Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, are seen during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. 
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images

GOP rep launches misguided offensive against John Kerry’s college degree

Rep. Thomas Massie’s (R-Ky.) name occasionally pops up in national news. When the U.S. House, for example, passed a resolution calling for the disclosure of the Mueller report, the measure received 420 votes – and Massie was one of only a handful of members not to vote for it. The Kentucky Republican also played a role in the intra-party campaign against then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) a few years ago.

As of this week, however, Massie will probably be known for something else.

The House Oversight Committee held a fairly routine hearing on addressing the climate crisis and invited former Secretary of State John Kerry to testify. That made sense, since Kerry helped negotiate the Paris climate accord and the former senator has long been a leading progressive voice on the issue.

Thomas Massie, however, thought it’d be a good idea to question Kerry’s credentials – or more specifically, his degree.

[Massie] began his line of questioning attempting to undermine Kerry’s authority on the issue by asking him about his “science degree” from Yale.

Kerry explained it was actually a bachelor of arts in political science.

“How do you get a bachelor of arts in a science?” Massie asked.

“Well, it’s liberal arts education …” Kerry replied.

“So, it’s not really science,” Massie said. “I think it’s somewhat appropriate that someone with a pseudoscience degree is here pushing pseudoscience in front of our committee today.”

It was at this point that Kerry interjected. “Are you serious?” he asked. “Is this really serious? This is really happening here?”

For the record, if we wanted to summarize our contemporary political lives in five words, we could do worse than “This is really happening here?”

The back and forth continued for a while, before Kerry ultimately said, “This is just not a serious conversation.”

That was, unfortunately, entirely true. In fact, Rolling Stone ran an item yesterday that suggested Massie’s line of questioning may have been “the dumbest moment in congressional history.”

I probably wouldn’t go quite that far, but it was clearly cringe-worthy. Kerry himself added on Twitter yesterday, “It’s almost as if someone said, ‘Congress has hit rock bottom’ and Massie replied with, ‘Hold my beer.’”

That said, if you saw the exchange between Massie and Kerry and immediately assumed that the Kentucky Republican is dumb, stop. He’s not. Massie, in fact, has two engineering degrees from MIT.

The problem isn’t that the congressman is dim; the problem is that he doesn’t want to accept climate science.

Indeed, aside from the comedy, that’s what made this exchange so important. How in the world will Congress tackle serious crises such as climate change when educated and experienced lawmakers like Thomas Massie engage in embarrassing antics like these?