CNN's King, Panelists Hit Obama From Left on Climate Change: 'Why Did They Wait So Long?'

CNN's John King, along with the AP's Julie Pace and National Journal's Ron Fournier, targeted President Obama from the left on Tuesday's New Day over the issue of climate change. King highlighted Obama's interviews with meteorologists in order to "push his agenda for climate change," and wondered, "If the President has this power...through executive authority, and this issue is so important to him, why did they wait so long? Why not do this in the first term?"

The two guests seconded the correspondent's question, with Fournier hyping how the apparent crucial nature of the issue: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]

RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: ...The President has missed an opportunity to really seize one of the most important issues facing our globe – not just our country – and he's let politics get in the way....you know, he had eight years. Why didn't you start sooner?

King brought on the two journalists for his regular Inside Politics segment, and after noting the planned presidential interviews, he continued that "the President is going to use executive authority to do most of what he wants to do, and John Podesta, the former Bill Clinton chief of staff now helping this president...made a rare appearance in the briefing room yesterday to say if Republicans in Congress try to pass legislation to stop the President, they will fail."

After playing a soundbite from Podesta (who is also founder of the left-wing Center for American Progress), the CNN personality oddly remarked that "from a political standpoint, I have to say it's good to see Skippy back at the podium there. Skippy is John Podesta's alter ego. It's an inside joke on Inside Politics here." He then asked Pace his "why did they wait so long" question.

The AP journalist first expressed her agreement with King: "That's a question we've been asking about, actually, a lot of issues when the White House talks about this 'year of action' that they're having. You know, if these things are so important, why didn't you do them earlier?" She continued by outlining some of the politics surrounding the issue, particularly in the context of the upcoming 2014 midterm elections.

King then turned to Fournier and named specific examples of Senate races where the issue of climate change could be a factor: "Mary Landrieu, incumbent senator in Louisiana – tough race – Mark Begich from Alaska, another oil state – incumbent in a tough state. They will look for chances here to stand up to the President, not help the President, right?"

The National Journal writer replied with his "missed an opportunity" line about President Obama, and pointed out that "if you talk to him [Obama] privately, what he'll argue is that his main job here is to educate the public to try to create a sense of urgency among the public; to try to have a common set of facts in the public, so that the next president and the president after that can really accomplish this problem."

Before moving on to a new subject, the CNN journalist stated that "we'll see how he [Obama] does starting now. We'll watch this going forward. As you know, it is a critical issue for the globe."

The transcript of the relevant portion of the King/Pace/Fournier segment from Tuesday's New Day on CNN:


JOHN KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights this morning, Julie Pace of the Associated Press, Ron Fournier of National Journal. Julie, the President will be in the – outside the White House today – talking not to White House correspondents; not to Sunday show hosts; but to meteorologists and weather correspondents around the country to push his agenda for climate change.

Now, the President is going to use executive authority to do most of what he wants to do, and John Podesta, the former Bill Clinton chief of staff now helping this president in the White House, made a rare appearance in the briefing room yesterday to say if Republicans in Congress try to pass legislation to stop the President, they will fail.

[CNN Graphic: "New Push On Climate Change"]

JOHN PODESTA, FMR. CLINTON W.H. CHIEF OF STAFF (from White House press conference): They'll – they'll find various ways, particularly in the House, to try to stop us from using the authority we have under the – under the Clean Air Act. All I – all I would say is those have zero percent chance of working.        

KING: From a political standpoint, I have to say it's good to see Skippy back at the podium there. (Pace and Fournier laugh) Skippy is John Podesta's alter ego. It's an inside joke on 'Inside Politics' here.

What do they hope to accomplish? And if the President has this power with his pen through executive authority, and this issue is so important to him, why did they wait so long? Why not do this in the first term? Why not do this in the first week?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yeah. That's a question we've been asking about, actually, a lot of issues when the White House talks about this 'year of action' that they're happening – that they're having. You know, if these things are so important, why didn't you do them earlier?

On climate, you know, there are couple of reasons. There are some interesting politics in the Democratic Party when it comes to climate change. You have people who are up for re-election on the Democratic side in the Senate who are from states like Louisiana, where talking about renewable energy – new types of power, like solar – doesn't really play well when they have oil-driven states.

On the types of action we're expecting from the White House this year, we should look for some regulations in June on power plants. That's one of the things that Podesta is talking about the Senate trying to block. You know, there could be some other things that they're going to move down the line. They've – they've tried to avoid putting specifics on it. And our question still is, how broad – how sweeping this will be, or will these just be, sort of, small measures?

KING: And so, the President tries to move forward on this, Ron, and as Julie notes, Mary Landrieu, incumbent senator in Louisiana – tough race – Mark Begich from Alaska, another oil state – incumbent in a tough state. They will look for chances here to stand up to the President, not help the President, right?

RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Right, and that's part of the problem here. The President has missed an opportunity to really seize one of the most important issues facing our globe – not just our country – and he's let politics get in the way. If you talk to him privately, what he'll argue is that his main job here is to educate the public to try to create a sense of urgency among the public; to try to have a common set of facts in the public, so that the next president and the president after that can really accomplish this problem. I'm kind of wondering – you know, he had eight years. Why didn't you start sooner?

KING: Well, we'll see how he does – does starting now. We'll watch this going forward. As you know, it is a critical issue for the globe.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center