It depends on your definition of executive
The DNC has barred Democratic candidates from participating in a debate that isn’t sanctioned by the DNC, and the DNC has refused to sanction a debate on climate policy. But it’s not against the rules to participate in a “forum” or a “town hall,” as long as only one candidate appears on stage at a time.
So CNN hosted a climate town hall this evening, and, to me, the format was actually an improvement, at least as far as having a thoughtful conversation is concerned.
One of the more interesting moments came when an audience member asked Joe Biden about a story that broke in The Intercept this afternoon, that he was heading to a fundraiser co-hosted by a fossil fuel executive the day after the climate forum, even though he had taken a pledge not to take fossil fuel money.
Biden denied that the co-host, Andrew Goldman, is a fossil fuel executive, but Anderson Cooper followed up to let him know that Goldman was a co-founder of Western LNG, a natural gas company. Later in the forum, Cooper clarified to Biden that he had been told Goldman doesn’t have “day to day” responsibilities at the firm. Biden said that he was told by staff that Goldman "did not have any responsibility related to the company, but if that turns out to be true, then I will not in any way accept his help."
After the forum, Symone Sanders, a Biden spokesperson, dug in, insisting that Goldman is not really involved with the firm he co-founded. But Splinter News dug up a Canadian filing from last year that asks “Please briefly identify the other senior management personnel involved with Western.” (Aren’t Canadian regulatory firms polite?)
The answer: “Western is managed by a seasoned team of executives experienced in the LNG and related energy infrastructure industries. Western's co-founder is Andrew Goldman, Chief Investment Officer of Hildred Capital Partners. He is a long-term investor in the liquefied natural gas sector.” An industry press release from last year also speaks about Goldman as having a present-tense role in the company and describes him as “a long-term investor in the liquified natural gas sector.” He’s also the second person listed under “leadership” on the firm’s site. This is an odd hill for Biden to die on.
Kate Aronoff, meanwhile, has an interesting story about a primary contest in the warehouse capital of America, Joliet, Illinois, that asks a difficult question: In an era of crisis, is okay good enough?
At the town hall, a number of candidates, from Beto O’Rourke at the young end to Bernie Sanders among the more seasoned, stressed that their motivation for addressing the climate emergency was about how they wanted to be viewed by their grandchildren when asked what they did at a crucial moment. I’ve been hearing that motivation voiced more and more as part of the climate conversation, and it’s something I feel myself. I used to be pushing so that we could actually avert the crisis. Now sometimes I feel like I’m doing it to show my kids I tried. Maybe that will end up being a more powerful motivator for more people in the end.
Whenever I get too pessimistic, I remember one thing: Even if it’s too late to stave off something catastrophic, the catastrophe could always be worse, so it’s still worth fighting, at least to mitigate it somewhat.