John F. Kerry: Climate Warrior or Climate Conman? | Opinion

For John F. Kerry, the fight against global climate change is the all-consuming passion of his waning years. It's no wonder, therefore, that President Joe Biden picked the former U.S. secretary of state to be his administration's climate czar.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kerry does not always practice what he preaches. He undertook a 2019 trip to Iceland to receive the Arctic Circle award for leadership on climate issues by private jet, which is not exactly the most carbon-free way to travel.

When queried about it, Mr. Kerry responded that the jet was "the only choice for somebody like me who is traveling the world to win this battle." Loosely translated, that means "Do what I say, not what I do."

According to published reports, including a Fox News story about the trip to Iceland, private jets emit as much as 40 times as much carbon per passenger than commercial flights. Mr. Kerry claims he compensates for that through carbon offsets, meaning he's still a big polluter but, because he does other things that are good, it's okay.

Mr. Kerry is not the only liberal climate warrior with an exceptionally large carbon footprint. Former vice president Al Gore, the man who popularized global warming, was similarly called out some time ago over the amounts of energy consumed at his Tennessee home.

This issue here, which these two men so brilliantly put into relief, is not climate change; it's hypocrisy. On the environment, on economics, on education and other issues, wealthy, influential progressives like Mr. Kerry and Mr. Gore live lifestyles that the policies they advocate would prohibit for the rest of us.

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry speaks during a press briefing at the White House on January 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Kerry and McCarthy took questions from reporters about the Biden administration's plans and agenda on climate change issues. Drew Angerer/Getty

The aristocratic and socially well-connected elites who run the Democratic Party nowadays are far removed from the working classes who in the 20th century built the party into a political powerhouse. They are, to break it down to its barest essence, out of touch with the people they claim to represent. Remember how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., used a media op in the early days of the pandemic to brag about the designer ice cream in the two freezers in her San Francisco kitchen? This is not the kind of thing the leader of the so-called party of the working man and woman is supposed to do.

There are Democrats in Congress who oppose vouchers and school choice but send their children to private schools. They're all for their kids having the chance to escape the nightmare that the public school system has become, but refuse to back efforts to spread those opportunities to poor and working-class families in inner cities. Sometimes they even try to take such opportunities away, as President Barack Obama did when he tried to kill a pilot educational scholarship program for poor kids in Washington, D.C.

This kind of hypocrisy isn't front-page news and doesn't get discussed on nightly telecasts. If it comes up at all it's dismissed as "whataboutism," a rhetorical trick device meant to keep the focus off the Left's prodigious and obvious double standards.

Not every Democrat is guilty of such misdeeds. U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, the longest-serving woman currently in Congress, told The Hill in a recent interview about her growing feeling of alienation within her own party as the interests of her midwestern constituents conflict with what those members from wealthy districts on the East and West coasts believe is important.

"They just can't understand," Kaptur said of her fellow Democrats who cannot relate to blue-collar concerns. "They can't understand a family that sticks together because that's what they have. Their loved ones are what they have, their little town, their home, as humble as it is—that's what they have."

Kaptur's complaint deserves to be heard. For all the talk of a "civil war" among members of the GOP, it's the Democrats who are in real trouble. The split between blue-collar workers and green environmental activists over issues like the Keystone XL pipeline—which President Biden shut down during his first week in office—is a much bigger and more important matter than which Republican follows what inane conspiracy theory.

Mr. Kerry brought this home sharply by callously suggesting workers thrown off the job by the Keystone decision go make solar panels. It must be easy, when you're married to a multi-millionaire, to rise above the everyday concerns of working Americans by going for a ride in your family's private jet. Most of America doesn't have that option—which is why the new progressive era that supposedly began with the last election is going to be lucky to make it through the next two years.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications. He can be reached by email at Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.

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