The Green New Deal and the mother of all Kinsley gaffes


Kinsley Gaffe (named after former New Republic Editor Michael Kinsley) occurs when a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he or she isn’t supposed to say.

By that standard, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) may have committed the mother of all Kinsley gaffes last week.

The gaffe was perpetrated on Thursday, Feb. 7, when Ocasio-Cortez’s website was graced with a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the Green New Deal resolution she was going to introduce in the House on Friday, Feb. 8.

The Green New Deal resolution is a 10-year plan “to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War II to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all.”

The FAQs were evidently intended to provide some specific examples of what the Green New Deal would entail. Or, as the Wall Street stock analysts like to say, “to provide some color.”

And boy did they.

Among the more colorful details:

• “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast…”

• “…build out high speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary, create affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle.”

• “A Green New Deal… would not include creating new nuclear plants. It’s unclear if we will be able to decommission every nuclear plant within 10 years, but the plan is to transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible.”

• “Upgrade or replace every building in the U.S. (there are 75 million of them) for state-of-the-art energy efficiency.”

The environmental “color” is complemented by some equally lurid socialist color. The FAQ post also promises “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.”

In politics, timing may not be everything, but it counts for a lot. And the release of the FAQs a day before the submission of the actual Green New Deal resolution was spectacularly infelicitous timing. It meant that media outlets would use the FAQs to write their advance stories on the resolution’s impending submission — and that the answers to the FAQs would take center stage since the text of the actual resolution wasn’t available.

According to the Washington Post, more than a dozen media outlets did just that — while concluding from those answers that the Green New Deal’s sponsors expected it to 1) replace commercial air travel and private cars with trains and public transit; 2) eliminate the consumption of red meat; 3) rebuild or replace everyone’s home, workplace, school, church, shopping mall and public lavatory for maximum energy efficiency whether they needed it or not; 4) replace all the fossil-fuel power plants in the country with non-carbon generating capacity but rejecting nuclear power, the one non-carbon technology currently capable of providing base-load electricity; while 5) giving a guaranteed basic income to every lay-about in the country.

The 70-plus Democratic congressmen, 12 Democratic senators, and five Democratic presidential candidates who had endorsed the resolution without seeing the FAQs were not amused and started ’splainin’.

“The resolution is silent on any individual technology read: nuclear] that can move us toward a solution of this problem,” said Senator Ed Markey, who was sponsoring a companion Green New Deal resolution in the Senate. “That was not part of the resolution.”

Republicans and conservatives gleefully pounced. Paleocon Pat Buchanan borrowed a British Tory dig at a far left Labor Party platform to characterize the Green New Deal as “the longest suicide note in history.”

By Saturday, the back-tracking, distancing, denying, blame-fixing and ass-covering were underway.

“An early draft of a FAQ that was clearly unfinished and that doesn’t represent the GND resolution got published to the website by mistake,” Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, tweeted. “The major thing here is we have now over 70 House Democrats and every major president candidate now on board calling for a gigantic transformation of our economy,” Chakrabarti said. “People are trying to take the focus away from the big picture to these little typos.”

“Little typos,” huh.

At any rate, the FAQs were removed from Ocasio-Cortez’s website, and the congresswoman announced that people should stop paying attention to them. “Point is, the real one is our submitted resolution,” she tweeted, with a link to the resolution. “When I talk about the GND, this is what I’m referring to — nothing else.”

Apparently the reporters covering the story didn’t think to ask who wrote the draft FAQ sheet. And where did the writer get the questions and the answers? And who released it by mistake?

The FAQs were probably drafted for Ocasio-Cortez by someone in her office — but not without first consulting with the boss.

It’s hard to believe that the FAQs aren’t a roughly accurate reflection of Ocasio-Cortez’s views on how the Green New Deal should be implemented and what the consequences of implementing it will be. They weren’t a work-in-progress posted by mistake; posting them was a mistake only to the extent that they were a Kinsley gaffe, an example of a politician, too inexperienced to know better, accidentally telling the truth. In FAQs veritas.