White House economic advisor Gary Cohn made the curious comment in Sicily on Friday that President Donald Trump’s views on climate change were “evolving.”
It was not clear exactly what that meant. “Evolution” could mean moving towards the alarmist consensus of the left — or it could also mean toward a skeptical view, one more carefully informed by scientific and economic reality.
In political terms, “evolving” is usually a term used by the left, a euphemism to describe when a politician has changed his or her position. Its most significant use was in regards to President Barack Obama’s views on gay marriage, which were said to have “evolved” from outright Christian opposition to full-throated liberal embrace.
Like the term “progressive,” the term “evolution” implies an improvement in moral and intellectual terms, from prejudice and ignorance to reason and enlightenment. The left, presuming that its own views are superior, and that the “long arc of history” bends in its direction, expects people to “evolve” in its direction.
What was stranger were Cohn’s words explaining how Trump is said to be evolving. The president, he said, was becoming “smarter” and becoming “more knowledgeable” about the issue.
Again, that could mean Trump is growing skeptical of the alarmist, non-scientific view around which our public debate on climate change revolves. (In obtaining a degree in environmental science and public policy from Harvard, for instance, I became more knowledgeable about the problems in modeling climate — problems that have not improved much since then, despite the radical advances in computer technology and data analysis.)
It is also possible that Cohn was shaping his assessment of the president’s views to flatter his largely European audience, which believes in climate change the way people on other continents believe in religion.
That flattery may have been appropriate, for diplomatic reasons. What defies explanation is why he would imply that his boss had previously been less “smart” about the issue, or less well informed.
It is the kind of comment that tends to reinforce the false narrative the media spins about every single Republican president — i.e. that he is stupid.
It is also a comment that carries considerable political risk. Conservatives resent being told, usually by leftists, that their generally skeptical views on climate change are poorly informed, or “denialist.” Often, the leftists making such accusations cannot actually explain themselves how climate change is presumed to take place, and never consider a view other than their own.
For now, conservatives continue to hold out hope that the president “evolves” the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement and toward a more sensible policy that uses innovation in energy technology to harness domestic resources of all kinds, and grow the U.S. economy while reducing emissions.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.