Right Wingers Rewrite History on Kyoto

The Kyoto Protocol provides a good example of the dishonesty of the right wing media and blogosphere. John Kerry raised the Bush administration’s rejection of Kyoto at Davos:

“When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don’t advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy,” Kerry said.

Many conservative blogs, such as Blue Crab Boulevard, tried to attack Kerry by falsely claiming he voted against Kyoto in the Senate when in fact it was George Bush who was responsible for the rejection. The right wing media made the same false claims. The Boston Herald rewrites history in an op-ed:

Perhaps Sen. Kerry simply forgot that it was President Clinton who failed to send the Kyoto Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification. Perhaps Sen. Kerry forgot that Clinton had to dump Kyoto in 1997 after a unanimous Senate vote rejected the treaty in advance.And perhaps Sen. Kerry forgot that in 1997 he was, in fact, a U.S. senator who cast one of those votes.

As there was never a Senate vote on Kyoto, they make this claim by distorting the meaning of the Byrd-Hagel resolution. The Natural Resources Defence Council provides information on the resolution:

Q. Did the U.S. Senate vote against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol?

A. No. The protocol has never been submitted to the senate for ratification. The Bush administration has referred to a vote on the non-binding Byrd-Hagel resolution, which registered views on some aspects of protocol negotiations. The vote on the Byrd-Hagel resolution took place prior to the conclusion of the Kyoto agreement, and before any of the flexibility mechanisms were established. The resolution was written so broadly that even strong supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, such as senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) voted for it. In doing so, Sen. Kerry said: “It is clear that one of the chief sponsors of this resolution, Senator Byrd . . . agrees … that the prospect of human-induced global warming as an accepted thesis with adverse consequences for all is here, and it is real…. Senator Lieberman, Senator Chafee and I would have worded some things differently… [but] I have come to the conclusion that these words are not a treaty killer.”

Election Guide 2004 had a similar assessment of the resolution:

An example of this relates to the 1997 passage of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution. 17 The Resolution is often portrayed as anti-Kyoto, though it’s not that simple. 18 According to Hagel, the non-binding resolution, submitted in the midst of international negotiations, was “intended to change the course of negotiations”, 19 not to pull out. The treaty was never submitted to the Senate for ratification, although this vote on the Byrd-Hagel Resolution was used by Bush in 2001 to justify pulling out of negotiations. Bush said,

“The Senate’s vote, 95-0, shows that there is a clear consensus that the Kyoto Protocol is an unfair and ineffective means of addressing global climate change concerns.” 2

Similarly, Bush’s campaign website states that the U.S. Senate rejected the treaty. 1

Kerry’s vote for passage of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution recognized the then-present state of negotiations – that the treaty would unfairly and severely burden the US. These were the premises on which the resolution was based. Kerry and Byrd believed that climate change was a clear and present danger…

Kerry sees flaws in the protocol, including the weaker requirements imposed on developing nations, but he wants to reopen negotiations, fix them, and move forward. 20

Despite the attempts of the right wing noise machine to rewrite history, the distinction is clear that Kerry has been concerned about global warming and supported Kyoto while Bush pretended global warming did not even exist until recently.

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  1. 1
    jay k. says:

    be careful…the bush administration may label you an enemy combatant and lock you away forever for acknowledging accepted fact.

  2. 2
    yucca says:

    i see you choose not to take issues with the clinton point… after all you always seem more interested in defending kerry than attackin bush

    anyway, what i’d like to know is this: now that kerry is definitely not running, will the number of posts you dedicate to him descrease?

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:


    That’s the difference between modern authoritarian movements in democracies and Soviet style totalitarian regimes. With modern propaganda methods they don’t have to lock everyone away who expresses disagreement. The right wing noise machine spreads lies such as these, and far more hear them than read rebuttals such as this. Besides, most of the people reading this already realize that the right wing argument is bunk.

    Repubicans had a good winning string going base upon their propaganda machine until reality was too apparent.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    By debunking the argument on the Senate vote this shows that both the claims about Clinton and Kerry are false. I didn’t think it was necessary to connect the dots on that. The comment on Clinton is “Clinton had to dump Kyoto in 1997 after a unanimous Senate vote rejected the treaty in advance.” Once it is demonstrated that the Senate did not reject Kyoto it shows there is no substance to this attack.

    Whether someone is a candidate for President is hardly the only criteria for whether someone is worth posting about. The number of posts dedicated to Kerry, as well as others, depends largely on what they say and do which I find worth commenting on. When Kerry spoke out at Davos it was worthy of a post. I initially didn’t plan to follow up with more detail on Kyoto, but I’m finding an increasing number of conservative publications and blogs echoing this false claim, making it worthy of a post.

    Kerry did many things worthy of blog discussion before he ran for President, and now that he has a more national audience I suspect we will see far more from him. I suspect that as time goes on we will also see more “Kerry was right” type articles in the media, such as the one on Iraq from Marie Cocco I quoted from yesterday. The weakness of the current field will also increase the chances that Kerry will stand out even if he is not a candidate himself.

  5. 5
    yucca says:

    about clinton: i thought what the paper was denyin is the claim that america’s absence from kyoto is down to bush. that claim, the paper shows, is false. and your post does not take issues with that.

  6. 6
    Carl Gordon says:

    Around here, they’re starting to drop like sickened flies, as the fetid stench of false pulchritude and blatant nepotism play out their last retarded act to a crowd that is visibly beginning to thin and throw licorice candies at the stage. The evil white poodle of doom continues to loiter in the parking lot of our discontent. Some say his name is Yorick, to which I slyly reply, “Ah, Yorick! I knew him Horatio! Many was the time he bore (and bored) me on his lumpen and flea-ridden back!” which totally confuses everybody. But I have bigger lunkers to skin and fry. The dull now sharpened arrow of pain and despair, waylaid and delivered at the end of the random female bumper weighs heavily upon my stress level and systolic blood pressure as the ominous clouds of elective back surgery are no longer a distant fuzzy specter but a menacing boogey man, passing the kidney stone of corporeal dread until all hope for simple resolution gives up the ghost and faces the dreaded noise of certain permanent malfunction in regards to a continuing subsistence without twinge or tweak of physical trepidation.

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