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Sarah Palin on global warming: Humans might be partly to blame

September 11, 2008 | 10:15 pm

Sarah Palin,  who has struck many as a refreshing break from politicians-as-usual, seemed to do Thursday what politicians usually do as their horizons expand -- moderate a previous position on a controversial subject.

By the same token, a close reading of what she said shows a lot of hedging on her hedge.

The subject was global warming, covered in Chapter 2 of ABC's multi-part interview with the Alaska governor whom John McCain cast as his running mate. Just a few weeks ago, in an interview with the conservative-leaning website Newsmax.com, Palin had this to say: "I'm not one ... who would attribute [global warming] to being man-made."

Asked about that view by anchorman Charlie Gibson in a clip played on "Nightline," her initial response was: "I believe that man's activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change."

A shift, to be sure, but note the use of "can be" instead of "are."

Borrowing another page from those oh-so-loathsome typical politicians, she sought to re-frame the discussion. Said Palin: "Regardless, though, of the reason for climate change, whether it's entirely, wholly caused by man's activities or is part of the cyclical nature of our planet -- the warming and the cooling trends -- regardless of that, John McCain and I agree that we gotta do something about it, and we have to make sure that we're doing all we can to cut down on pollution.... Things are getting warmer. Now what do we do about it? And John McCain and I are gonna be working on what we do about it."

Gibson wasn't ready to move on, though. He said: "Yes, but isn't it critical as to whether or not it's man-made? Because what you do about it depends on whether it's man-made."

She responded: "That is why I'm attributing some of man's activities to potentially causing some of the changes in the climate right now."

Again, an apparent shift. But note the wiggle room she left herself with that word "potentially."

Somewhere inside the Beltway, grizzled politicos were smiling.

-- Don Frederick

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