Time’s Michael Grunwald also defended the insider approach, and neither he nor Pooley was willing to let Obama off the hook for failing to make it work; as the latter put it, “he chose not to engage.”

Pooley did not, however, hold the president fully accountable. Neither did Joseph Romm, who runs the blog Climate Progress and accused fossil-fuel interests and the “lame-stream media” of doing the most to undermine climate policy. But in a post reprinted at Grist, he, too, argued that whatever amount of blame is left should go to Obama rather than environmentalists (his argument, though, smacks of the same defensiveness and aversion to self-reflection within the environmental community that Skocpol criticized).

Whatever the explanation, the debate about Skocpol’s analysis provided depth and insight that was lacking in most of the coverage of Obama’s second inaugural. True, her report and the ensuing conversation are probably a bit too wonky for reporters on deadline (and their general audiences), but journalists should at be familiar with it. They should also read a competing assessment released this month by Nathaniel Loewentheil, a fellow at Yale’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies, because the fight over climate policy hasn’t grown any easier and both papers will help them cover what is and isn’t working as Obama’s second term moves forward.

[Update: Time’s Bryan Walsh had a thoughtful reaction to Obama’s big talk on climate, which mentioned Skocpol’s report and highlighted an interesting Q&A that she did with The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer before the inauguration.

According to National Journal’s Amy Harder, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center Chairman Chuck Schumer of New York have said they “they won’t push big climate legislation and will defer to EPA on global warming.” Unsurprisingly, coverage in the days after the inauguration has focused on what Obama can do to address climate change without Congress.]


Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.