John McCain can’t figure out what’s so controversial about his comments that Arizona’s epic wildfires were caused by illegal immigrants. The real insult? In McCain’s comments and the ensuing media coverage, the words ‘climate change’ haven’t come up once.
Just when you thought John McCain was getting cool again, he appears to be slipping back over the edge of senility.
After his disastrous presidential run in 2008, John McCain seemed to wake as if from a nightmare, shed the shadow of that “goggle-eyed mouth-breather” of a running mate (as Bill Maher calls her), and get down to work restoring his good name.
After keeping his head down and avoiding and calamitous PR gaffes for the last couple years, McCain started making noise again last month after the assassination of Osama bin Laden. He used intelligence briefings to point out that waterboarding had not led us to bin Laden, and to passionately make the case against torture on the Senate floor.
The speech was effective enough to command respect from both sides of the aisle and the political community admiringly noticed, “It’s like the old McCain.”
Then, on Sunday, McCain stepped in front of a camera and blamed the Airzona wildfires on illegal immigrants. “There is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” he said. “They have set fires because they signal others, they have set fires to keep warm, and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them.”
Today, McCain doubled down on his performance, appearing on The Today Show to insist, “I’m puzzled…that there should be any controversy.”
Meanwhile, Arizona ranger Tom Berglund refuted the “illegal immigrant” theory to ABC News, saying, “There’s no evidence that I’m aware…indicating such a thing.”
Wallow fire, as it’s being called, is now the biggest fire in Arizona’s recorded history, coming amidst a season of record tornadoes, unusual snowfall, and all kinds of anachronistic weather behavior. And not once in McCain’s comments on the cause of the fire or the ensuing media coverage have the words “climate change” appeared.
In truth, McCain was doing what all politicians do with this campfire issues: He was using one material situation as a synecdoche to make a larger policy argument. But where he may have been “confused” as his critics like to say when suggesting he’s senile, is that he used the fires to make a point about the wrong policy.
Aside from the obvious offenses in McCain’s comments, the deeper, planetary offense was the slight they dealt to climate danger.
McCain was one of the first Republican lawmakers to back a cap-and-trade system and advocate limiting carbon emissions. In the face of Republicans’ systematic climate denial, McCain stood up to stupidity for the sake of future generations. That was the old McCain.
His failure to point out that we are now witnessing the manifestation of increasing climate danger before our eyes, and suggesting instead that the fires were simply caused by Mexican runaways sending smoke signals to each other is an insult to Mexicans, the planet, and to basic intelligence.