11/11/2011 03:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Oops. A Green Turnabout in the Presidential Race?

Crossposted with

It's Friday. High time for for the latest lowdown on political takes on the Environmental Protection Agency.

In recent weeks, I've discussed Obama"s relationship with EPA. Now let's look at his opponents' side.

Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate will probably be known forevermore as Governor Rick Perry's "oops" moment. I'm willing to wager that "Sorry, I had a Rick Perry moment" will soon be part of the American lexicon.

But lost amid the media frenzy over the governor's failure to conjure up the name of the Department of Energy -- the third agency, along with Commerce and Education, which he says he'd do away with as president -- was
the really big news: Rick Perry's evolving position as an environmentalist who supports the EPA.

Anti-EPA Rhetoric: The Rule for Republican Hopefuls

Until Wednesday night the would-be standard-bearers for the Republican Party have been unanimous when it comes to EPA -- they don't like it.

Of the field of candidates, Mitt Romney has arguably been the gentlest, some might say, safely-on the-fence one. He's been supportive at times, but given statements like those from a Town Hall meeting last month in New Hampshire -- "sometimes ...they take the Environmental Protection
Agency and turn it into an agency that stops the development of our
economy and kills jobs. That I won't allow." -- one would have to say he's
not all that supportive.

As for Rick Santorum, not known for his pro-environment positions (the League of Conservation Voters ranked him between zero and 11 percent during his time in the Senate), he wants, as reported, "to rein in government agencies like the EPA and National Labor Relations Board, whose regulations, he argues, hamper businesses from expanding and hiring." And how far would that reining in go? According to "Santorum would immediately repeal the regulatory alphabet soup implemented by the Obama Administration."

But compared to the other candidates in the field, Santorum and Romney are veritable EPA pussycats.

Michele Bachmann has guaranteed that, if elected, "the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off."

The Herminator, a k a pizza mogul Herman Cain, has stated: "If I were forced to eliminate a department, I would start with the EPA and start all over. It's out of control."

Newt Gingrich wants to abolish EPA, plain and simple, and "replace" it with the Environmental Solutions Agency

Jon Huntsman, the presumed moderate in the candidate field, foresees "ending the EPA's regulatory reign of terror."

Ron Paul maintains that the EPA is "constitutionally-illegitimate."

And then there's Rick Perry.

Before Wednesday night's debate, Perry had bashed EPA with the best of them, urging all to "Tell the EPA that we don't need you monkeying around and fiddling around and getting in our business on every kind of regulation you can dream of. You're doing nothing more than killing jobs. It is a cemetery for jobs at the EPA."

But Did We See a Perry Green Epiphany on National Television?

As Perry was trying to remember the name of the third agency he would ax as president, Romney, ever the helper, volunteered that Perry might be reaching for the EPA. To which Perry, after some urging by moderator John Harwood, replied emphatically: "No, sir. No, sir." That's right -- not one "no" but two! Why two? I can think of only one explanation: While under duress by the endless badgering from the media, Perry could suddenly no long contain his avid, gut-level support for -- nay, love of -- EPA, and it burst forth on national TV for all to see.

So there you have it. Governor Perry, in his heart of hearts, is a closet environmentalist. Extrapolate this to a Perry administration, and you clearly have an EPA even more proactive than it is today.

Other politicos may disagree, but I think it was a daring strategic move on the part of a faltering campaign that could pay off hugely in the polls. And if it does, just you wait. How many of the other candidates, in fear of being outflanked by the wily Texan, will begin to grow green stripes? Who knows? By Election Day, the party of the Red States could become the party of the greens.