Physicists calculate what is called the “Einstein Number.”1 It is a measure of closeness. If you published a paper with that most celebrated scientist, you have an Einstein Number of 1.
If you have never published a paper with Einstein, but you have co-authored one with somebody who worked directly with Einstein, you have a Number of 2. And so on. Small numbers are a badge of honor.
I suggest politicians seeking advice on science adopt a similar quantity, which we can call the Obama Number. The lower the number the closer the politician is to adopting policies supported by President Obama.
Mitt Romey’s Obama Number was, until recently, 1.
Both men shared the services of John Holdren, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Mr. Obama uses Dr. Holdren’s services on a routine basis. Mr. Romney eagerly sought Holdren’s advice when the ex-governor drafted the “toughest in the nation” rules on power plants, a feat of which Mr. Romney openly boasted. These rules, incidentally, caused power production in Massachusetts to drop 18% in four years.
Holdren is a devoted follower of Paul “The End Is Near And This Time I Mean It” Ehrlich. He and Ehrlich once co-authored a paper which promised that if their “population control measures [were] not initiated immediately, and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come.”
The misery failed to arrive, but lack of evidence means nothing to a man as deeply committed as John Holdren. He went on to write a textbook that advocated Communist Chinese-style forced abortions for women who have more children than their government-mandated maximum.
It was Holdren who coined the term “global climate disruption” as a replacement for “global warming,” because the latter did not sound frightening enough. Holdren cannot abide climate skeptics and would have them barred from speaking. He said of one moderate (Bjørn Lomberg) that he “needlessly muddled public understanding and wasted immense amounts of the time of capable people who have had to take on the task of rebutting him.”
Holdren also advocated seriously that “global climate disruption” can only be diverted if the U.K. and U.S.A. forced their economies to go into a planned recession. Fewer workers means less carbon dioxide released, you see.
Mr. Romney also dallied with Douglas Foy, a standard bearer for progressive environmentalism, and one-time boss of Massachusetts’ “super-Secretariat” of Commonwealth Development.
Part of Foy’s duties were to assist writing the Climate Protection Plan, part of Mr. Romney “no regrets” climate policy. Mr. Romney argued that if global warming turns out to be real, then increasing now the bureaucracy that regulates business will have seen to be wise.
But if turns out that global warming is not as pernicious as promised, increasing the size of government “will still help our economy, our quality of life and the quality of our environment.”
Mr. Foy was not as tempered in his predictions as Mr. Romney. Foy said that the “world’s dramatically shifting weather patterns are in part attributable to the often-heedless development patterns of the past.” Better, then, to have the government decide what is best—which coincidentally turns out to be what Mr. Foy considers best.
But all that is in the past. Since he began campaigning for the Republican nomination, Romney knew that convince conservatives to rally to his banner he had to fix his deplorable Obama Number.
So he began distancing himself from his past. He issued his “Believe in America” plan, which saw an abrupt about face from his previous believes. He announced, for example, that the current occupants of the White House are “in thrall to the environmentalist lobby and its dogmas”.
His previous green rhetoric has vanished. Where before he spoke of the “battle to improve our environment,” he now cries that the “regulatory bodies under [Obama’s] control have taken measures to limit energy exploration and restrict development in ways that sap economic performance, curtail growth, and kill jobs.”
These efforts have shifted Mr. Romney’s Obama Number to a more respectable territory, but he still has a long way to go.
1Yes, mathematicians more famously compute an Erdös number, but few civilians know who this great man was. The principle is the same.