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Graham blames Gore for GOP's science problem

The good news: Lindsey Graham thinks it's a problem that his party doesn't have an environmental policy. The bad news: he's blaming Al Gore.
Lindsey Graham (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)
US Republican Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham speaks during a US Senate Armed Services Committee on global challenges and US national security strategy on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) conceded yesterday that his party lacks direction and vision, at least for now, when it comes to the environment. "Before we can be bipartisan we gotta figure out where we are as a party," the Republican said at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. "What is the environmental platform of the Republican Party?"
Good question. Graham deserved credit for acknowledging the party's, shall we say, confusion on environmental policy. Ideally, the GOP would already have answers to basic questions like these, but in the absence of leadership from within the party, I'm glad the senator is at least raising the issue.
It'd be slightly more encouraging, though, if Graham weren't blaming Al Gore for his party's problems.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Monday admitted that Republicans need to do some "soul searching" on climate change and blamed former Vice President Al Gore for making it difficult to make progress on the issue. [...] Graham blamed Gore, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his efforts to combat climate change, for blocking progress on the issue.

"The problem is Al Gore has turned this thing into a religion," Graham said. "You know, climate change is not a religious problem for me, it is an economic, it is an environmental problem."
This is a dreadfully bad argument.
For one thing, neither Gore nor anyone else concerned with climate science has turned the issue "into a religion." It's actually the exact opposite -- Gore and those who accept the data as true aren't asking anyone to take the evidence on faith or belief in things unseen. On the contrary, Gore and other believers in science are asking people to look at the verified evidence.
For another, regardless of what the former vice president has ever said or not said, Gore's rhetoric isn't an explanation for Republican climate denialism. It's up to GOP policymakers to consider reality as it exists, not look askance at data because they don't like Al Gore.
But perhaps most unsatisfying is the notion that Republicans are otherwise comfortable with science and environmental policy, but the party has some kind of blind spot when it comes to global warming. If only it were that simple.
The truth is we're talking about a contemporary GOP that not only rejects climate science, but it's equally uncomfortable with evolutionary biology, reproductive health, and in some cases, even vaccinations. One Republican senator apparently isn't even sure about hand-washing after trips to the bathroom.
On the environment, meanwhile, it's hard to think of any area of the policy debate -- clean air, clean water, endangered species, etc. -- on which the Republican Party is open to progressive policymaking.
This isn't Al Gore's fault. If it were, the former V.P. could just pretend to repudiate his entire worldview and embrace of empiricism in the hopes that GOP policymakers would reconsider. Rather, the problem is within the party itself. If Graham wants to be part of the solution, terrific. He can start by dropping Gore as an excuse.