With scorching heat across the globe and the climate change drumbeat ramped back up, the White House press corps acted in kind during Tuesday’s briefing as they repeatedly grilled Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and senior adviser John Kirby from the left by demanding the administration do more to force through their side’s far-reaching agenda.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny went there first, trying to appeal to Kirby’s ego by boasting that he’s “long talked about how climate change is a national security issue for the country.”
“I’m wondering if you view this as a national emergency and if you believe that executive actions that will be announced are enough of a message to send to the world that the U.S. is indeed serious about climate change,” he added.
Kirby made sure to say he wouldn’t get ahead of the President, but he went on to give a lengthy answer about it being a threat taking the military away from defending the country and keeping our enemies on their toes. Incredibly, Kirby even blamed climate change for Bashar al-Assad’s decade-plus war on his own people in Syria.
Moving ahead to Jean-Pierre’s portion, the Associated Press’s Will Weissert opened her Q&A with climate: “It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting a climate emergency announcement this week. I want to make sure that’s still on the table and I wanted to ask if the White House has any concerns that the President might be relying on executive action too much.”
The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker was also on the case, plainly stating her complaints: “First, why did the White House decide that tomorrow is not the day to declare a climate emergency?”
After Jean-Pierre said Biden’s “going to do everything that he can to take action” to thwart the “climate crisis” (so thwart the rising seas, stop major hurricanes, etc.), Parker followed up: “If and when it does happen, can you talk a little bit about what specific tools it would then give the administration and what specifically you would use it for and do?”
Parker used her third and final question to keep pressing on whether declaring a climate emergency would open a “bigger pot of money.”
As he did with Kirby, Zeleny kept lobbying Jean-Pierre to have Biden go around Congress to enact his boondoggle (click “expand”):
ZELENY: Are there any downsides to declaring a climate national emergency?
JEAN-PIERRE: Right now, like I said, it’s not on the table for this week. We’re still considering it. I don’t have the upside or the downsides of it. As you can imagine, and I have said, this is an important priority[.]
ZELENY: When you talk about actions for tomorrow, should we assume that he’ll be signing executive actions to announce tomorrow?
JEAN-PIERRE: Jeff, I just don’t want to get ahead of the President. Again, he’s going to make some announcement —
ZELENY: Will there be a briefing call on this later to explain what he’s doing?
ZELENY: Has he been involved in these meetings today? Or what exactly has he been doing yesterday and today?
Reuters’s Nandita Bose managed to one-up the previous questioners by tying in abortion and climate by fretting about the possibility that declaring a national emergency on climate and not abortion would “end up...angering female voters if it does sort of go ahead and announce a climate emergency” first.
But Politico’s Eugene Daniels managed to top all of them with this humdinger on what the administration would “say to climate activists who feel like President Biden isn’t being urgent enough” and young Americans who have more to lose with a warming planet (click “expand”):
DANIELS: And what do you have to say to climate activists who feel like President Biden isn’t being urgent enough? So, you know, 20 percent of the U.S. population, about 60 million people, are going to see temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit over the next few days. They’re constantly seeing how the Supreme Court is taking some of the power away from the agencies to do that work and they’re — they want to see President Biden do more and do it quick — and do it quickly. We talked about him possibly doing this emergency declaration and that not being on the table. Why not just do it if it is so urgent, as you guys said? What is the hold-up?
JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, he is going to take an action tomorrow, right? That’s why we’re going to Massachusetts. I’m not going to get ahead of the President. Hopefully we’ll have a background call, like we normally do, to share specifically what that looks like. So, you know, I would disagree with the characterization of your question. The President has been one of the first — again, first folks and member — amongst the members on the Hill when he was senator to ring the bell — to ring the alarm bell on climate crisis. He has been — he has taken action. He has been — you know, he has said, when he walked in, that the climate crisis was one of the crises — the four crises that he had to deal with. He has taken action to meet the goals — very — very big goals, if you will — that he wants this country, our country to make in order to deal with the climate — climate crisis and he’ll continue to do that and so, again, this is one step. This is a continuing step of other steps that he has taken this past year, and we’ll see more actions from this President.
To see the relevant transcript from July 19's briefing (including even more climate questions), click here.