Eco-Failure Jay Inslee is a Smart Political Ploy for Biden | Opinion

You'd be hard pressed to find any meaningful environmental accomplishments from Washington governor Jay Inslee during his two terms. He's been an utter failure. Yet he is reportedly under consideration for top jobs in the Joe Biden administration, including secretary of energy. Weirdly, it's his non-existent record that may give him an edge in landing a cabinet position.

Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold claims Inslee "isn't credited enough with how much he shaped Biden's thinking" on the environment. A conspicuously timed joint press release from the Washington state attorney general and secretary of state explaining succession of power should Inslee resign, released on the same day Biden unveiled his national security team, added to the rumors that Inslee is a contender for a spot.

Is Inslee qualified for any top job on national policy? Not even remotely.

Inslee undoubtedly talks a good game. The failed presidential candidate branded himself as the ultimate climate change candidate. Buoyed by glowing coverage, Inslee earned support from like-minded activists, though his campaign failed as badly as his environmental agenda in Washington state.

The governor has focused his attention on cutting C02 to "defeat the climate crisis." He often touts his state as "a national leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions." During the last legislative session, Inslee signed a bill promising to cut emissions by 95 percent by 2050. But making bold proclamations to signal virtue on climate, without results, is classic Inslee.

Despite the governor's many pledges, Washington has seen a roughly 8 percent increase in CO2 emissions since Inslee was elected. What's worse, the state released a decade-high 98.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, according to the WA Department of Ecology.

Inslee's highest legislative priority for cutting emissions was a low-carbon fuel standard. Yet despite a state house and senate majority, Inslee couldn't convince his own party to pass the bill out of committee for a second consecutive year.

After another summer of severe wildfires, which the governor dubbed "climate fires," Inslee blamed climate change for their intensity. He used the fires to push his climate brand, even though climate change wasn't their leading cause. According to the state's own Department of Natural Resources, poor forest management and a lack of resources were the real culprits.

"Washington's forests are in a critical state. Millions of acres are overcrowded, filled with diseased and dying trees, and at high risk for catastrophic wildfires," Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz wrote in a 2019 report. She singles out the "dense stands of trees and accumulations of forest fuels" for producing "intense, fast moving wildfires."

Jay Inslee
Washington state governor Jay Inslee and other leaders speak to the press on March 28, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Karen Ducey/Getty

The climate failures don't stop there. Inslee failed to pass his carbon tax initiative, a court rejected his unilateral cap-and-trade diktat, activists scolded him on Puget Sound Chinook recovery and he nearly laid waste to Eastern Washington's apple crops by illegally and unwittingly transferring maggot-infested apples to a quarantine zone.

Even with these failures, The New York Times says activists are pushing Biden to tap Inslee for an important role in shaping the country's environmental policies. As if what he couldn't do in Washington, Inslee could somehow do nationally.

Environmentalists like Inslee plan to ax U.S. coal plants in the next decade and reach net-zero emissions by 2045. Both unlikely scenarios, outlined in his agenda that nearly mirrors the Green New Deal, would have severe economic implications. Biden may want to avoid the politics of lost jobs and bad energy policy, given the headache fracking caused him in Pennsylvania and the implications for the Democrats' precarious House majority in the midterms.

However, Inslee's superficial brand might be beneficial for Biden.

Inslee's progressive bona fides could placate an increasingly restless base that feels owed a seat at the table. Senator Bernie Sanders told the Associated Press it would be "enormously insulting" if progressives weren't represented in the Biden administration. Squad members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are already on a warpath over their staffing choices being ignored.

The progressive base doesn't know of Inslee's failures—just his brand. If Biden truly plans to pursue a "Team of Rivals" in his cabinet, eschewing divisive partisans as some reports suggest, he should by all means turn to the Washington governor.

Someone who talks a good progressive game—without advancing politically untenable positions that could hurt Democrats in the midterms—may serve Biden well in the first two years of his presidency. He can't risk an Obama-era House shellacking that will strengthen Republicans leading into 2024.

Assuming Republicans maintain the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't advance fringe cabinet choices if they could be effective. But he also could face voter backlash if he says no to every Biden choice. He'll have to advance some progressives, so why not one as non-threatening as Inslee?

For Biden, the lack of results on energy or environmental policy won't matter until after the midterms. Until then, he can easily scapegoat Republicans for the inaction, while hiding behind Inslee's brand. And if he needs someone to play the part and please progressives, without getting anything done that could hurt the administration, Inslee is Biden's best bet. Plus, it would give Washington a do-over for the governorship. We could use it.

Jason Rantz is a frequent guest on Fox News and is the host of the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH Seattle, heard weekday afternoons. You can subscribe to his podcast here and follow him on Twitter: @jasonrantz.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.