Former president Bill Clinton on Tuesday lashed out at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for using comments Barack Obama made about climate change as an applause line to mock the president.
At a campaign event in Minnesota, Clinton pointed out that Romney’s climate change jokes seemed a lot less funny following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the east coast of the United States.
“I was actually listening closely to what the candidates said in these debates. In the first debate, the triumph of the moderate Mitt Romney,” the 42nd president said. “You remember what he did? He ridiculed the President. Ridiculed the President for his efforts to fight global warming in economically beneficial ways. He said ‘Oh, you’re going to turn back the seas.’ In my part of America, we would like it if someone could’ve done that yesterday.”
Clinton added: “All up and down the East Coast, there are mayors, many of them Republicans, who are being told, ‘You’ve got to move these houses back away from the ocean. You’ve got to lift them up. Climate change is going to raise the water levels on a permanent basis. If you want your town insured, you have to do this.'”
“In the real world, Barack Obama’s policies work better.”
In fact, Romney’s joke about climate change had come during the Republican National Convention, not the first debate, but that doesn’t change the point that Clinton was making.
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” Romney had said. “My promise is to help you and your family.”
As Grist’s Philip Bump pointed out, Obama’s 2008 remarks about climate change have been used over and over again by conservatives to portray him “as an effete other.”
“Obama’s claim that we might address the rise of the oceans was seen as a man claiming dominion over the universe, not as a sensible priority for a president in the year 2008,” Bump wrote. “What Romney argues is a classic false choice: the idea that we must either choose to save the environment or put people to work.”
“Romney’s comment wasn’t about an issue of substance. It was about stroking the elements of the population who would be least likely to help him accomplish his goals were he to be elected to office. It was about making an earnest claim from a political candidate into a cynical joke — about diminishing a critical problem in order to add another two points to the scoreboard.”
Watch this video, uploaded to YouTube Oct. 30, 2012.