CLEVELAND, Ohio, August 7, 2015 (ENS) – Ten Republican presidential hopefuls lined up on the stage Thursday night for the first face-to-face debate of the 2016 election season. Environmental issues were not addressed, not even control of climate change, which many experts and other politicians have called the greatest challenge of of our lifetime.
Positioned on the stage by how they stand in an average of five national polls, in the center of the stage was businessman Donald Trump. Then, in order of popularity: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee; neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson; Texas Senator Ted Cruz; Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Kentucky Senator Rand Paul; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Only one of the three debate co-moderators, all Fox News personalities, mentioned the environment, and that came in a question to the candidates on shrinking the size of government, taken from a Facebook post.
Moderator Brett Baier said, “Governor Huckabee, on Facebook, John Pietricone asked this, “Will you abolish or take away the powers and cut the size of the EPA, the IRS, the Department of Education?”
“Broadly, the size of government is a big concern for Facebook users, Facebook persons, as well as, obviously, conservatives,” said Baier.
“But year after year, decade after decade, there are promises from Republicans to shrink government. But year after year, decade after decade, it doesn’t happen. In fact, it gets bigger, even under Republican politicians,” the moderator said.
“So the question is, at this point, is the government simply too big for any one person, even a Republican, to shrink?”
Huckabee did not address that part of the question concerning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, although Republican elected officials have often attempted to cut back the powers of the agency, arguing that it was overreaching.
Huckabee responded, “Every person on this stage who has been a governor will tell that you the biggest fight they had was not the other party. Wasn’t even the legislature. It was the federal government, who continually put mandates on the states that we had to suck up and pay for.”
“And the fact is there are a lot of things happening at the federal level that are absolutely beyond the jurisdiction of the Constitution. This is power that should be shifted back to the states, whether it’s the EPA, there is no role at the federal level for the Department of Education,” said Huckabee.
The debaters then took up the issues of taxation and the Internal Revenue Service and education. The environment was not mentioned again.
Several hours earlier, during the so-called Happy Hour debate for the seven Republican candidates who did not make the Fox News cut for the Prime Time debate, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina did address the issue of climate change.
Moderator Bill Hemmer asked, “Senator Lindsey Graham, you worked with Democrats and Republicans and President Obama when it came to climate change, something you know is extremely unpopular with conservative Republicans. How can they trust you based on that record?”
Graham replied as if he were the Republican nominee and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was the nominee of her party.
“You can trust me to do the following,” said Graham, “that when I get on the stage with Hillary Clinton, we won’t be debating about the science. We’ll be debating about the solutions.”
“In her world, cap-and-trade would dominate. That will destroy the economy in the name of helping the environment. In my world, we’ll focus on energy independence and a clean environment. When it comes to fossil fuels, we’re going to find more here and use less. Over time, we’re going to become energy independent. I’m tired of sending $300 billion overseas to buy oil from people who hate our guts.”
“The choice between a weak economy and a strong environment is a false choice. That is not the choice I’ll offer America,” said Graham. “A healthy environment, a strong economy and an energy independent America – that would be the purpose of my presidency. To break the stranglehold that people enjoy on fossil fuels who hate our guts.”
In response to the debate as a whole, League of Conservation Voters Vice President of Campaigns Dan Weiss said, “The Republican presidential candidates had an opportunity tonight to listen to their constituents and put forth their plan to combat climate change, protect public health, and grow the economy. Instead, this debate barely addressed the critical issue of climate change, even when recent polling shows a majority of Republican primary voters in early states want their candidates to propose clean energy plans.”
Weiss said, “We are disappointed in the candidates tonight and urge them to accept the settled science of climate change and start offering their plans to address one of the biggest challenges of our time.”