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Bill Straub: ‘St. Matt the Divine’s’ jokes about Trump and global warming no laughing matter

WASHINGTON – St. Matt the Divine dropped his parson’s collar a few days back to engage in the one thing his gubernatorial administration has proved he’s really good at – comedy.

Gov. Bevin

With much of the country trapped in a deep freeze last week, including single-digit temperatures throughout the commonwealth and minus readings in places like Florence, Gov. Matt Bevin thought the time was appropriate to haul out the material that will no doubt make him a hit on the Borscht Belt once his time in Frankfort reaches a gratifying conclusion.

St. Matt used one of his favored modes of communication, Twitter, to post a temperature map of a clearly Antarctica-like United States, carrying the legend, “Trump has been in office 1 year and has already fixed global warming.”

Oh that gov, such a kidder, crediting the president (gasp) with taking steps to end global climate change just like the action he took to end Obamacare…

…oh, wait a minute…

Anyway, a handful of folks didn’t think St. Matt’s gag was all that much of a knee-slapper, given the serious repercussions that could be realized if the world doesn’t get a hold of the threat posed by global climate change. Some took to the internet to let their feelings be known, to which the governor said, and you’ll forgive the expression, chill out.

Appearing on WKRC-AM in Cincinnati in wake of his tweet, Bevin told host Brian Thomas that he was just a joshing, noting that, “Anyone who sees this anything other than a joke, I can’t even begin to fathom.”

Now permit me, on a point of personal privilege, as one who grew up reading Mad magazine and National Lampoon and considers himself an acolyte for the Marx Brothers, and who regularly pokes fun at some of the most serious matters imaginable, to say that I agree with the governor. A lot of America needs to get over itself and regain a sense of humor. Bevin’s effort to become the next Henny Youngman isn’t exactly a rib-tickler but of and by itself it’s pretty harmless.

Except, of course, he couldn’t leave well enough alone, as usual. Old St. Matt followed up his discourse on the American tradition of humor by saying climate scientists taking to the watchtower to warn about the very real impact of global warming are full of beans and, simply put, kind of a drag.

And somehow he hauled poor, old Al Gore into the conversation.

“…this idea that we all need to be held hostage to a handful of people who contribute nothing to the wealth of this nation, who then will, in turn, shut us down, led by puppeteers like Al Gore, for the lining of their own pockets, in order to make us jump through various regulatory hoops, as if somehow, we, mankind is solely responsible and is solely going to be the solution, is ludicrous.”

So let’s go over this again, shall we?

The consensus among climate scientists and others in the field – those who apparently “contribute nothing to the wealth of the nation’’ in St. Matt’s view — maintain that the planet is getting warner and that humankind, generally through the burning of fossil fuels, is primarily responsible, According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2017 was the third-warmest on record for the U.S. and a string of weather and climate catastrophes – flooding, hurricanes, wildfires and the like – cost the nation a whopping $306 billion.

In a briefing for reporters, Adam Smith, an applied climatologist with the NOAA, stated, “Clearly 2017 underscores what we’ve seen in the past with regard to better mitigating our risk and enhanced frequency of weather and climate extremes.’’

The report noted that the average temperature for the lower 48 states in 2017 was 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit – 2.6 degrees higher than what was the average for the 20th Century. The top five high temperature years in America – including 2017 – have all occurred since 2006.

St. Matt the Divine doesn’t deny that it’s getting a little hotter under the collar but dismisses the claims of the scientific community that the burning of fossil fuels is the largest contributing factor. The gov doesn’t say why this is happening, just that temperatures tend to fluctuate and, don’t worry, the deity will happily look after God-fearing folks.

Now you may question Bevin’s expertise in this area, since he has none. His abilities and his all-knowing approach evokes the old Kentucky joke about the man with a magical weather rope – he holds it outside and if it’s still, the weather is calm. If the rope is swaying it is windy. If the rope is wet, it’s raining. If it’s shaking there’s an earthquake. If it’s gone, it’s a tornado.

That’s the extent of the governor’s knowledge about weather and climate.

Contrast that with the findings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which maintains “about 97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. This agreement is documented not just by a single study, but by a converging stream of evidence over the past two decades from surveys of scientists, content analyses of peer-reviewed studies, and public statements issued by virtually every membership organization of experts in this field.’’

So who do you believe, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists or a guy with a weather rope?

Sadly, Bevin’s views currently permeate the federal government, which is doing all it can to reverse efforts by the previous White House occupant, former President Barack Obama, to address the rising danger of man-made climate change. Back in 2012, it should be remembered, the current job-holder, that 71-year-old enfant terrible, asserted via Twitter that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.’’

Trump is in the process of pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. His Environmental Protection Agency, led by erstwhile Kentuckian Scott Pruitt, is on track to cut the agency’s staff nearly in half by 2021. And Pruitt is quite happily shredding every rule and regulation adopted to address global climate change.

Trump has nominated a woman, Kathleen Hartnett White, to serve as director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is a harmful pollutant, attracting opposition from more than 300 scientists who signed a letter opposing her nomination, maintaining it would have, “serious consequences for people and the ecosystems of the only planet that can support us.’’

And then there’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry, representing the state of Big Oil, who was pushing a plan to artificially prop up aging coal-fired power plants – big contributors to global warming – by providing subsidies to those with a 90-day fuel supply. Even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, talking about comedy, laughed that one out of the building.

So it doesn’t appear St. Matt the Divine will be taking his standup routine to Vegas any time soon. Unfortunately that means he’ll still be holding court on the first floor of the Capitol Building.

And that ain’t funny.

Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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