The Truman National Security Project, an organization of retired military leaders, has made it very clear that they believe that climate change is a critical national security issue. I was invited to lunch with several Truman Project staffers and a few of their new media consultants one day at Netroots Nation, along with about a dozen other bloggers who write about climate change.
While we were waiting for our hamburgers and salads to arrive, Jonathan Powers, the Executive Director, and Michael Moschella, the Political Director, talked about the Truman Project and about why they view climate change as a military issue and a political/policy issue as well as an environmental issue. They also talked about why and how they want to shift the national discussion to tilt more towards the Democrats.
The Truman Project grew out of the 2004 campaign when John Kerry, a highly respected and decorated military leader from the Vietnam War, was "swift-boated". Kerry, of course, is why the term was invented, having been hit by a vicious smear campaign from which his candidacy was unable to recover. Having been on the receiving end of that, along with Senator Kerry, the group of veterans who came together during that campaign to support Kerry have stayed together and they have turned their attention to preventing other Democratic candidates from being identified as soft on defense. They are working to recruit, train and position a new generation of progressives across America to lead on national security.
I remember hearing retired Army General Paul Eaton talk when I was working for Darcy's campaign and at Democratic functions. It was awesome to hear a decorated military leader talk about having become a Democrat. There were many more military leaders stepping into the Democratic races in many roles during the last election. I have no idea if any of them were members of the Truman Project but it's a great idea - inoculate Democrats from that raging divide that the public has had about which party the voters would trust on national security issues. The one-two punch of that historical gap plus 9/11 did the Democrats in for a couple of cycles.
Rebranding the Democrats on National Security
So this group of retired military folks with the Truman Project along with help from some of our Congresscritters, is working pretty successfully to change the perception that Republicans can take care of us better than Democrats.
Almost all the candidates who had military backgrounds in 2008 ran as Democrats. Some outspoken Democrats, like General Eaton and Senator James Webb had been Republicans but changed parties. A solid 57% of Americans approve of the way that Obama is handling foreign policy. Independents are closer to Democrats on National Security issues than they are to Republicans. Wow! There is a shift and that's been a long time coming. Some muscle on the part of the Democrats, good policy, and visibility of the part of prominent military supporters who stand with the Democrats have made the difference.
Next step. The Truman Project ties together two of the key issues of our age - 1) how America works with the rest of the world and 2) what we do to decrease pollution and lead on climate change around the world. I love it. How we deal with climate change as a nation and as a world people is probably the most critical issue of our century. The Truman Project is now helping focus the national conversation in that direction. Several members of the Truman Project will be testifying at the hearings for the Waxman-Markham bill when they start up again, perhaps including some of the Board Members which include Madeleine Albright, Leslie Gelb, William Perry and John Podesta among others. Prominent, credible people, all.
A couple of the key points that the Truman Project noted:
- Our military understands the importance of the U.S. acting quickly and effectively to prevent additional climate change.
- The world needs someone to set the example of addressing climate change head on. Other countries will not feel like there is much reason for them to focus on preventing climate change if the US is not doing it.
- Every $5 increase in a barrel of oil that comes from Iran or Venezuela puts $30/barrel into the hands of one of those governments.
- As Sub-Saharan Africa becomes less habitable, for example, the fighting for the remaining resources will escalate and the US will have to intervene to prevent wars in the region.