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Clinton Aides: ‘Mixing Climate And Terror Is A Mistake’

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign staffers were wary of linking “climate and terror” by starting an op-ed on United Nations global warming talks with a reference to the Paris terrorist attacks.

“I feel pretty strongly that the top two graphs of this are very off key,” Clinton’s chief political strategist Joel Benenson wrote in a November 2015 email to staff, referring to an op-ed the campaign wanted to place in The Financial Times before the UN met in Paris in November 2015.

“I think trying to lead with terrorism and bridging to climate change is a mistake and will ring hollow,” Benenson wrote as part of an email chain published online by WikiLeaks from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s hacked Gmail account.

“I believe right now Americans are quite anxious about the threat of ISIS and this topper is going to risk many writing this as though she’s linking terrorism to climate change,” he said.

“Agree with Joel that mixing climate and terror is a mistake,” echoed Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director.

Staff were discussing an op-ed they wanted to get placed in the Financial Times ahead of a UN climate summit in Paris that was expected to yield a global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

[dcquiz] The Paris summits, however, was preceded by a deadly terrorist attacks carried out by gunmen with links to the Islamic State. Clinton campaign staffers debated using a major Democratic talking point in the wakes of the attacks: fighting global warming will help reduce terrorism.

“I understand Joel’s point about terrorism in the opening, but I like how you incorporate it into the ending,” wrote Nick Merrill, Clinton’s traveling press secretary. “I always have an eye towards the less engaged reading and digesting this stuff, and something like this structure might help in that regard.”

The Obama administration had been claiming global warming was a national defense issue for months by the time of the Paris attacks. Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders even linked global warming to terrorism.

“If we are going to see an increase in drought, in flood, and extreme weather disturbances as a result of climate change, what that means is that people all over the world are going to be fighting over limited natural resources,” Sanders told CBS in 2015.

National security experts, however, have pushed back against the idea that global warming will cause more violent conflicts to break out across the world.

Clinton’s draft op-ed originally opened with:

Two weeks ago, the world watched in horror as terrorists killed 129 people and wounded scores more in the City of Lights. Americans know too well the pain and shock of such an attack—and we will work with our allies to defeat ISIS and root out the forces of radical jihadism across the globe.

Parisians have refused to give in to fear—with “Tous au bistrot!” the city’s rallying cry. And this week, President Obama, French President Francois Hollande, and other world leaders will deliver another rebuke to the terrorists—by coming together in Paris to tackle the global crisis of climate change.

Climate change threatens every corner of our country, every sector of our economy, and the health and future of every child. We are already seeing its impacts in the United States and around the world. And we know the poorest will suffer most of all. The only question is how severe we will allow this threat to become, and how much pain we will allow the world to endure, before we meet the challenge.”

Clinton didn’t get an op-ed published in The Financial Times, but she did get a piece published in Time magazine. The article does not link global warming to terrorism.

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