Graham was holding a town-hall meeting in the gym of a high school in Greenville, South Carolina. His constituents were not happy. One man accused him of ‘making a pact with the Devil.’ Another shouted, ‘No principled compromise!’ One audience member asked, ‘Why do you think it’s necessary to get in bed with people like John Kerry?’ Graham, dressed in a blue blazer and khakis, paced the floor, explaining that there were only forty Republicans in the Senate, which meant that he had to work with the sixty Democrats. A man in the bleachers shouted, ‘You’re a traitor, Mr. Graham! You’ve betrayed this nation and you’ve betrayed this state!’That may be mindless and partisan, but it is also something else that I think is more important: it is conservative. Legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions and promote "cleantech" would be a big change and it would cause harm to a lot of people. Conservatives oppose it. And what do you expect them to do? What does conservatism mean, if not opposing change, especially big changes that might do a lot of harm?
I mention this because Friedman is a member of a clique of self-proclaimed moderates that gets, I think, too much attention in the US media. They like to complain about our institutions and they are always blaming "partisanship" when the things they support don't get done. They like to see themselves as above politics, so they never cast stones at either side. Friedman puts himself through stylistic gymnastic to avoid blaming Republicans or conservatives for an outcome that they fought for and won, or crediting liberals for being on the right side. The problem to the godlike Friedman is always the dirty little squabbles of lesser men.
In this case, though, what Friedman wants has been a goal of American liberals since the 1970s, and it has been opposed all along by conservatives. Why can't he say that? Why can't he say that liberals are right to fight for higher taxes on fossil fuels and subsidies to clean energy, and conservatives are wrong to oppose them? Oh, no, the Great Reforming Moderate won't dirty his hands with such partisan twaddle. He will sit on his exalted perch and scold all of us for our pettiness.
For the record, I hated the Cap and Trade bill and was not sad to see it die. It would have created another government bureaucracy to enforce rules of mind-bending complexity, and the existence of such government bodies pisses people off and makes them vote Republican. I think a carbon tax would be a much better approach. The Democrats shied away from this because they are afraid of being accused of raising taxes, but they could have coupled the new tax with an offsetting cut in payroll taxes.