BY: James Pitkin | Willamette Week
There are reasons that only three reporters covered a news conference this morning with Czech President Václav Klaus at the Portland Hilton. And there are reasons I was one of them.
I’ll wait until the end of this post to tell you about me. First, the reasons behind the dismal turnout — especially notable in a city where visits by heads of state are so rare. KBOO, KOIN and WW were the only media outlets at the question-and-answer session with a European president.
The most obvious explanation is that the Czech Republic is a tiny post-communist country with little relevance to Oregon. But another reason — and the one offered afterward in a conversation with one of Klaus’ hosts — was the nature of his message.
Klaus was here to argue that global warming, human-caused or otherwise, is a myth promulgated by group-thinking climatologists and propagated through manufactured hysteria. And it’s a dangerous myth, Klaus believes, because it’s being seized upon by forces bent on undermining our liberty by subverting the free market.
That’s not a popular message, and it may not be one the media wishes to hear or report on, said Steve Buckstein, a senior policy analyst at the Portland-based Cascade Policy Institute. That libertarian-leaning group was one of three such organizations which hosted Klaus’ visit. The others were the Washington-based groups Competitive Enterprise Institute and Americans for Prosperity.
A former Czech finance minister and prime minister, Klaus is an economist in the Milton Friedman mold who has been arguing this line for years — the only head of state to question climate change repeatedly and publicly. Considered something of an embarrassment at home, he’s been received warmly by conservatives abroad and spends a good deal of time on the international lecture circuit, where he’s currently plugging his new book on global warming.
Whatever the reason for the poor turnout, we three reporters had Klaus all to ourselves for 45 minutes, with some polite questions also lobbed from the 20-or-so people in the room connected with his American hosts. He answered in fluent English delivered with a purring voice and a slight accent.
Klaus argued that a carbon cap-and-trade system — recommended for Oregon and other states last week by the Western Climate Initiative — is a solution that smacks of socialism. And as Klaus never fails to remind his foreign audiences, he’s intimately familiar with socialism’s failings after living most of his life in the Eastern Bloc. He still balks at talk of “rationing” anything, even carbon emissions.