In politics, especially as it pertains to climate change, I almost invariably find that no, they are just ignoramuses (ignoramii?) or barefaced liars.
Tom Philpott notes that last month there was a 300 word letter about corn ethanol from a teenager in a provincial newspaper, the Concord Monitor and New Hampshire Patriot, that showed a more sophisticated understanding of things than either the outgoing or the incoming president.
How can this be? It cannot be that the presidents' people are unaware of the points. It is simply that the author's voice is not beholden to the vested interests that obstruct the truth and responsible action.
The Green Party in London and Brussels have given their support to hydrogen buses. I looked into hydrogen as a vehicle fuel and it appears that these buses are a very bad idea indeed. They are a decoy by the oil companies and directly cause greater carbon emissions than a diesel bus.
I walk the Greens through it over and over again. They avoid the questions over and over and over again. Even when I give them clear evidence that their answers (to the wrong questions) from their Mayor Boris Johnson are bunk, they show no interest.
Why else would that be, except that they and Boris have the same policy on this issue, and no facts or demonstrable worsening of the problem they're supposedly solving will get in the way?
This week George Monbiot, with his characteristic flair for language, described our predicament, where 'unmolested by the public, corporate lobbyists collaborate with this empty political class to turn parliament into a conspiracy against the public'.
The solution he flags up is a sort of advanced lobbying of the politicians. Frankly, in itself and no matter what its anarchist motivations, that's all most political action can be. What is a campaign against a third runway or coal power station if not an urge to a change in government policy?
We're pushing for worthwhile victories and better conditions, but essentially it's just bigger cages and longer chains. The systemic changes are only alluded to, they are what we'll achieve if we continue onward after the immediate changes we're campaigning for are made.
We need to keep a clear eye on what lies beyond and on the real problem, namely that proximity to power compromises people. Concentrations of power remove people from what they hold power over, thus making bad decisions simple to take, free of personal consequences, and easy to rest on the conscience.
This was once again made clear to me last week with that peculiar mix of weariness and enragement at a 'climate question time'. On the panel were senior MPs from the Conservatives and Labour (including Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment), a prominent LibDem and Oxfam's Head of Campaigns.
They all managed to espouse positions based on factual error, with the Conservatives and Labour throwing in lashings of crooked debating tricks and contradictions, anything to defend the predecided position of their party irrespective of logic or science, let alone justice.
Clean coal, aviation, high-speed rail links, nuclear power, government's responsibility to help smaller businesses adapt to low-carbon methods, even the simple facts of how we're doing at cutting emissions; all of it was awash in the great tide of horseshit they - especially Hilary Benn - unleashed.
I've just published an article taking a few of the things they said to bits, with a conclusion about what this means in terms of the politicians' response to climate change.
It's over at U-Know and it's called Climate Action: Too Important for the Politicians. http://www.headheritage.co.uk/uknow/features/index.php?id=92