I had an epiphany today — and I can thank Kit Bond for my enlightenment.  In response to the EPA ruling that carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases are pollutants that endanger public health and welfare and are ripe for regulation, Bond’s  reaction was just what one would have expected:

But Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo., said the agency’s regulation of heat-trapping gases would be expensive and cumbersome.

“The Obama administration’s actions today,” Bond said, “will do more to endanger families, farmers and workers with new energy taxes and lost jobs than it does to protect the environment.”

So how did this “same ole, same ole” trigger sartori? Follow me over the fold and we’ll take a closer look at what Senator Bond really said.    

Bond claims that regulating toxic emissions is difficult and expensive, which is probably true. He also attempts to diminish the gravity of the problem they pose, so that the economic dislocations that are inherent in meaningful regulation take on more weight than the original problem — which is only possible, incidentally,  given the millions of corporate dollars that have been spent to plant doubt about the nature and consequences of man-made climate change.  

What Bond has effectively done is to paint the situation as a duality, an “either/or” choice, while biasing the response toward the pole that he favors.  However, problems of this sort can also be viewed as “either/or/and” and it is the ability to identify the “and” that characterizes true leaders.

For example, President Obama has recognized that the environmental problem has been accurately described, as well as the fact that resolving it may entail hardship for some industries, the expense and loss of jobs Senator Bond describes.  But he also knows that there is an “and” in the proposition; that mitigating environmental decline may lead to the creation of new industries and new jobs.  He correctly sees his job as a leader to initiate the planning that will take us in that third direction.  

And this is the Eureka moment.  The problem with the Republicans, the reason that they have been so ineffective, is that they cannot take this step.  The insist on seeing the problems that the nation faces in terms of a Manichaean duality, good and evil, make a choice, the ideologically correct choice, and your job is done.  Instead of contributing to the effort to identify the “and”; to analyze problems without preconceptions and expand the range of solutions, they cling to a vision of how it should work and refuse to think beyond that point. And that is why they fail us over and over as leaders.