High-profile Republicans converged last year around a new favorite refrain when it comes to climate change: “I’m not a scientist.
Party leaders and candidates for office repeated variations of the theme throughout the year when asked whether manmade climate change is happening and what should be done about it.
GOP strategists and observers say the line is ripe for mockery, given that politicians are expected to take positions on a whole host of issues without training in a given field.
Still, they said the refrain is as an important placeholder for candidates as the party grapples with its stance on climate change in the face of deep conservative skepticism.
“It sounds like one of the most nonsensical GOP talking points in quite some time,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who advised Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) 2008 campaign for president.
But O’Connell said “I’m not a scientist” plays an important, albeit temporary, role in the broader GOP debate.
“The fact is, the party’s not come to a consensus on how they want to deal with the issue of climate change,” he said.
“What they do agree on is that they do not want to pass what they see as middle-class job-killing regulations and taxes. But they want to maintain flexibility until they come to a consensus on the best way to handle it down the line.”