He delivers a weekly address on global warming. And last month, he joined with Representative Henry Waxman (D-California) and Representative Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) to send a letter to President Obama outlining a set of actions the executive branch might take on its own.
Whitehouse and Waxman have also formed a bicameral climate change task force. And this morning, I spoke with him about the task force and the prospects for movement in a Washington that has been slow to act. I'll have a fuller piece in the Phoenix next week. But I wanted to highlight Whitehouse's answer to one question, here. I asked him if President Obama, in weighing executive action, was free of political constraints now that he's won re-election.
Whitehouse said "there are some contraints" on a second-term president, but that they are "dramatically reduced." He added that "to the extent the president had his eye on re-election in the first term, he now has his eye on his legacy." And that legacy, he said, "will be a failed one" if he does not pursue permanent remedies to climate change.
"Forty, 50 years from now," he said, "the economic woes that we are experiencing and the Middle Eastern conflicts that are taking place...will be history - important parts of history, but history, nonetheless." People will be living "every single day," though, with the impacts of an unchecked climate change.
In a grim political environment - the GOP-controlled House is actively hostile to climate change legislation - Senator Whitehouse may have put his finger on the single greatest hope for significant action in the next four years: the ambition of a president disdainful of "small ball," intent on big impact and, perhaps, more keenly aware of his place in history than any president in the last century.