The Corner

Obama’s Divestment Dog Whistle

President Obama has escalated his war . . . on coal. Now Obama has declared war on America’s entire conventional energy industry. For the second time, most recently in his weekend UC Irvine climate address, Obama has signaled support for the campus fossil-fuel divestment movement. Since the goal of this movement is literally the destruction of America’s fossil-fuel industry, Obama must send his signal via dog whistle.

In his Irvine address, Obama called on students to “divest from what harms.” That had campus divestment Facebook pages lighting up in recognition of the presidential endorsement. Meanwhile, most Americans have no idea that Obama has thrown his support behind a radical movement dedicated to the destruction of the country’s conventional energy industry.

I wrote about Obama’s first divestment dog whistle in “Divestment Du Jour.” You can read more about the campus fossil-fuel divestment movement in my three-part series, and in coverage of divestment controversies at Vassar and Swarthmore.

Reporters ought to force Obama into the open on this issue by asking the White House to expand upon the president’s divestment remarks. Congressional Republicans and potential GOP presidential candidates ought to weigh in as well, condemning Obama’s support for a movement whose radical goal would be repudiated by the vast majority of Americans.

If forced into the open on divestment, Obama will either have to justify his support for an extreme movement whose goal the public is certain to reject, or he will have to back off, sorely disappointing the Millennial voters he’s hoping to energize by stealth. Republicans must press the president to clarify his stand on fossil-fuel divestment.

— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.  He can be reached at comments.kurtz (at)


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