Guns, Climate, Gays Missing in Presidential Race
WASHINGTON - Of the roughly 50,000 words spoken in this month’s three presidential debates, none were "climate change," ’’global warming" or "greenhouse gas."
Housing was discussed in the first debate, but the word "foreclosure" was mentioned in none. Nor was gay marriage.
The 2012 presidential campaign, not just the debates, has focused heavily from the start on jobs, pushing other once high-profile issues to the sidelines. It dismays activists who have spent decades promoting environmental issues, gay rights, gun control and other topics, sometimes managing to lift them to the top tiers of national attention and debate.
With fewer than half of Americans believing that human activity contributes to global warming, according to Pew Research, President Barack Obama talks far less about climate change than he did four years ago. When he locked up the Democratic nomination in June 2008, he said future generations would recall "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."
Obama hasn’t come close to making such claims in recent months.
Last June, 3,100 U.S. temperature records were broken and much of the nation was in drought, said Daniel Kessler, spokesman for 350 Action Fund, which tries to raise awareness of global warming. And yet the three presidential debates, and the sole vice presidential forum, produced "absolute silence on climate science," Kessler said.
He said he believes voters would respond favorably "if candidates put out a bold vision" on climate change. Instead, the topic generates far less discussion than it did four years ago. Other topics suffering downgrades in presidential campaign attention include:
Gun rights sometimes have played big roles in U.S. elections. In 1993, for instance, the recently elected President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Bill, which required background checks on many gun buyers. A new ban on assault weapons soon followed. But it contributed to heavy Democratic congressional losses in 1994, and the law expired 10 years later.
Despite high-profile mass shootings - including those involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in early 2011, and dozens of Colorado movie theater patrons in July - questions about gun rights and gun control have generated scant discussion this year.
They weren’t mentioned in the first debate between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, which focused on domestic issues. A voter asked about assault weapons in the second, town-hall-style debate, on Oct. 16.
Obama cautiously spoke of "seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced." Romney said he favors no new gun laws.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence criticized the lack of discussion in the first debate. After the second, it chiefly praised the woman who asked about the assault weapons ban.