02/23/2014 10:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Climate and Ukraine Heat Up... and Who's Today's Frank Underwood?


By: Mark Green


Shrum and Torie Clarke agree that Obama should use executive authority to mitigate Climate Change and to reach energy independence...and that U.S. lacks leverage in Ukraine Crisis. But because it's not Hungry 1956, Putin can't stem wave of democracy with troops. If tries = U.S. in Vietnam.

On Extreme Weather Recently and Climate Change over Millennia. Is "Climate Change" an indisputable fact and the equivalent of a "weapon of mass destruction," as Obama and Kerry respectively said this week?

Bob cites a 98 percent consensus in the scientific community to answer yes, noting the 347 straight months world-wide of above 20th century average temperature. Torie agrees and sides with the Ruckelshaus GOP camp rather than the Inhofe/GeorgeWill GOP one. But why do 2/3 of Rs deny this reality? There's agreement that it's partly about campaign money from extractive sectors, like the Koch brothers, and partly a party knee-jerk against big government and the 44th president.

They also agree that the President should use executive powers to fight climate change (though Clarke whacks candidate Obama for denouncing Bush43's extravagant use of them) and pursue the almost-in-reach energy independence, with an emphasis on renewables.

But should he do this while other major contributors to greenhouse carbon emissions, like China and India, balk? "Yes" because a) if we lead, they may follow and b) like Dick Cheney on terrorism when you treat a one percent chance of terrorism as if it were a certainty given the costs, it's smart to assume climate is changing due to manmade policies and to change those. (Terrorism is horrible and takes a few thousand lives a year; the manmade contribution to extreme weather could take tens or hundreds of millions this century.)

Shrum predicts that the Keystone XL pipeline will be "reluctantly approved" because, though the State Department impact statement shows it not that significant, Canada will extract it in any event and Obama reasonably wants an all-of-the-above energy strategy enroute to energy independence and a renewable future. Clarke doubts that Extreme Weather will be a big political variable in the near future given how voters focus on the immediate problems like jobs.

Best metaphor for the impact of climate change? We cite Jim Hansen's that "it's like an asteroid hurtling at us" as we're digging a hole. Using the title of Elizabeth Kolbert's book, The Sixth Extinction, the 5th one indeed WAS an asteroid eliminating the dinosaurs while today's is us eliminating us.

Having fun: we listen to former Speaker Gingrich in 2007 telling Senator Kerry that we should immediately take steps to stop the threat of climate change...and then the same Gingrich urge that the same Kerry should resign as Secretary of State now for comparing it to a "weapon of mass destruction."

On the Ukraine. Host: Talk about a fluid situation! As I was reading the Saturday NYTimes about whether the Friday accord would hold, I saw blog posts reporting that President Yanukovych has already fled, with photos of protestors playing golf on his private course. Hmmm, the print platform may in trouble.

There's agreement that Obama doesn't have much leverage on a divided nation bordering on Russia (though freezing assets and imposing sanctions are mentioned by Torie). But, for different reasons, Putin may not have much room to maneuver either.

Beyond his unhappiness at losing both hockey gold and the Ukraine in one's unlikely he'd try a 1956 Hungry-like invasion to keep the country united under Russian influence. Since the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the 'Arab Spring', it's no longer feasible for hegemonic powers to successfully stem a tide of democracy elsewhere.

We hear a grumpy George Will ask what Obama's Russian re-set has gotten us. But when Putin doesn't invade his neighbor, the columnist will be able to answer his own question.

In sum, the two panelists side less with Will than with Rand Paul who argues that "the American people are very leery of getting involved in another squabble...talking and diplomacy is the answer here."

On 2014 Elections. Resolved, the 2014 mid-terms are shaping up as a contest between Rs saying Obamacare and Obama are awful vs. Ds saying a) mend-it-don't-end it, b) don't turn Congress over to the Tea Party and c) give America a raise. Agree?

Torie reframes that the issue will be whether voters want a bigger federal government in their lives or not -- and concludes that when you combine mid-terms historically and these themes today, the House is likely to stay R and the Senate D.

Bob concurs in that conclusion but with this added analysis: Koch-level money could be decisive in some races unless a Dem super-PAC comes forward to respond; the Obama For America apparatus -- 13 million strong bolstered by social media -- could improve base turnout marginally; and ultimately both jobs numbers and the appeal of a minimum wage hike to $10.10 will make economic issues THE big variable.

On Hillary -- really 'inevitable' nominee? Shrum walks us through his Daily Beast blog post this week arguing that sometimes the CW is right -- namely that HRC is the inevitable nominee if she runs because a) there's no Obama in the wings, b) her huge money will reflect her huge popularity, and c) no populist to her left like Elizabeth Warren will run.

Torie doesn't disagree, hedging only in that unexpected "forcing events" may happen and she could get entangled again in a big Hillary bureaucracy like last time. The Host hopes she'll also avoid her early themeless candidacy of 2007-8 -- "in it to win it" + signs saying only "HILLARY!" -- ohh, that's her name -- rather than something about WHY running.

On DNA mapping of newborns. Since we're on the brink of knowing the probabilities of a baby's medical future, is that something either panelist would want to know? Torie says no; Bob yes, if for no other reason than anticipating possible medical woes could assistant in treatment early.

On Reality and House of Cards. So how real is the popular Netflix series and who today is most like protagonist Frank Underwood? Again consensus: in real Washington, no one is so smart and evil to succeed as FU. Bob goes out on a limb saying that "Ted Cruz would like to be Frank Underwood" but, beyond Democrats, GOP colleagues won't let that happen.