Michael Barone

In the Bella Center on the south side of Copenhagen and in the Senate chamber on the north side of the Capitol, we're seeing what happens when liberal dreams collide with American public opinion. It's like what happens when a butterfly collides with the windshield of a speeding SUV. Splat.

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The liberal dreams may have seemed, on those nights in Invesco Field and Grant Park, as beautiful as a butterfly. But they are still subject to the merciless laws of political physics.

Eleven months ago, this did not seem inevitable. It was widely supposed that economic distress would increase America's appetite for big government measures to restrict carbon dioxide emissions and control the provision of health care. Especially when a young dynamic president employed his oratorical gifts to transcend, as he put it, old ideological and partisan divisions.

Barack Obama, who seemed so confident of his powers as he prepared for his inauguration, evidently believed that he could persuade Americans to support left-of-center policies that they had never favored before.

A Democratic Congress rejected Hillary Clinton's health care plan in 1994, and a unanimous Senate rejected the central provision of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. But this time, with a steep recession and a new leader, things would be different.

As snow fell on the global warming alarmists in Copenhagen and a winter storm made a beeline for the Capitol as the Senate was set to begin its round-the-clock weekend session, things don't seem that different at all.

The Copenhagen conclave seems to be unable to produce the promised binding treaty committing 100-plus nations to reduce carbon emissions. It seems likely to kick the can down the road to 2012.

One reason is that the leaders of China and India are unwilling to slow down the economic growth that has been lifting millions out of poverty in order to avert a disaster predicted by climate scientists who, we now know from the Climategate e-mails, have been busy manipulating data, suppressing evidence and silencing anyone who disagrees.

Another is that American voters have shown a growing skepticism of such predictions. The cap-and-trade bill that Obama hoped to brag about in Copenhagen now clearly has no chance of passage in the Senate. Obama talks of giving developing countries $100 billion to pay for emissions reductions. But the ABC/Washington Post poll reports that by a 57 percent to 39 percent margin Americans oppose donating even $10 billion.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM