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Three Prominent Republicans Care About Climate Change, Sort Of

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

In recent weeks, three prominent Republicans — Mitt Romney, Chris Christie and Jon Huntsman — have publicly affirmed their belief in climate change and the need to reduce pollution. This is good news!

But as far as I can tell, they don’t have a plan to address the issue between the three of them.

The most recent was Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor with a tendency to play both sides of every issue. At a town hall style campaign event in New Hampshire on Friday, Romney said:

I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.

This isn’t the first time Mitt Romney has sounded like an environmentalist. In 2003, he told his constituents that he would not “not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people,” while pointing at a coal plant.

But six weeks ago he told Greta Van Susteren that he would lower gas prices by drilling for oil and burning lots of coal:

Well, you get the prices down by convincing people who are investing in gasoline futures, so to speak, the speculators — you let them understand that America is going to be producing enough energy for our needs. And that means we’re going to start drilling for oil. We’re going to use our natural gas resources, which are now extraordinarily plentiful, given new technology. We’re going to use our coal resources. Of course, we’re going to pursue all the renewables, but you have to have oil and gas to power America’s economy.

And at today’s town hall at the University of New Hampshire, Romney downplayed clean energy and electric cars. “I love solar and wind (power) but they don’t drive cars. And we’re not all going to drive Chevy Volts,” he said. He also warned against working to solve the problem unless China and Brazil were participating in the solution, reminding the crowd that “it’s not called American warming, it’s called global warming.”

Last week it was Chris Christie, the New Jersey Governor who is being recruited into the presidential race by a group of wealthy Iowans. In an impressive speech, Christie talked the talk:

When you have over 90% of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role it’s time to defer to the experts. Climate science is complex though and we’re just beginning to have a fuller understanding of humans’ role in all of this. But we know enough to know that we are at least a part of the problem. So looking forward, we need to work to put policies in place that act at reducing those contributing factors.

But at the same time, Christie announced that New Jersey would be leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a 10-state, voluntary cap and trade system designed to reduce emissions. The New Jersey Sierra Club credited the governor with destroying “the first and most successful greenhouse gas reduction program in the country.” Brad Plumer convincingly argues that Christie had to distance himself from climate policy in order to play on the national stage.

In mid-May it was Jon Hunstman, the former Utah Governor and President Obama’s former Ambassador to China, forging the path that Chris Christie and Mitt Romney later followed. “This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring,” he told Time Magazine. “If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community.”

If he had stopped there, that would have been fine. He meant climatologist and the 90% figure is low (it is more like 97%), but no major harm was done. But then he added, “though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.” Asked about cap and trade, Huntsman kept digging. “Cap-and-trade ideas aren’t working; it hasn’t worked, and our economy’s in a different place than five years ago,” he said, concluding, “much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn’t the moment.”

Romney and Christie both went further than Huntsman did, saying we have to reduce emissions. And Huntsman and Christie both cited the same inaccurate 90% figure, with Huntsman even paraphrasing Al Gore with the doctor/scientist comparison. But what sticks out the most about their remarks is that all three are opposed to doing anything productive to solve the problem. If any of these three has a plan for dealing with climate change that doesn’t include cap and trade, a carbon tax or massive investments in clean energy, they should explain what their plan is and how it would work.

Rick Santorum, The Only Consistently Anti-Environmental Candidate

10:01 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

Rick Santorum announced yesterday that next week, in a Western Pennsylvania coal field, he’ll announce he is running for President. The leaked announcement seems to have heavily emphasized the coal field angle, since several major outlets mentioned it prominently.

On Twitter, Bill Scher asked a compelling question: “Can he win by tarring Mitt, Newt, Tim, Jon w/past cap-trade support?”

I don’t think it will win him the nomination, but there is a segment of the Republican electorate that could be convinced to oppose Mitt/Newt/Tim/Jon solely because of their past support of cap and trade. Anti-environmentalism has become a matter of faith in the modern Republican party, so predictably, every 2012 Republican presidential candidate has reversed their previous support of addressing climate change.

Mitt Romney went from denouncing coal jobs “that kill people” to opposing environmental laws because they are “bad for business and cost jobs.” Tim Pawlenty went from “come on Congress, cap greenhouses gases now” to “it is a really bad idea, it is going to be harmful to the economy. Newt Gingrich went from advocating for solutions alongside to Nancy Pelosi in an Al Gore funded TV ad to “It is inconceivable that any threat from global warming is big enough to justify destroying the American economy.” Even Sarah Palin thought climate change was a threat that needed to be addressed as recently as 2007.

With former energy industry lobbyist Haley Barbour now out of the picture, Santorum is now the the only consistently anti-environmental candidate Republican primary voters have to choose from.

Santorum’s anti-environmental record and pro-coal credentials have been solid throughout his career, and this might just be how the candidate tries to distinguish himself in a soon-to-be-crowded GOP field.

Consider Santorum’s June 2008 Philadelphia Inquirer piece entitled ‘Coal’ is not a dirty word if we are realistic about saving the Earth, in which he rattled off a laundry list of climate change denial canards. Or look at his appearance in Reno six weeks ago, in which he criticized President Obama and Senator Reid for their opposition to coal production. Or look to 2001, when Santorum touted coal as the future and “environmentally safe.”
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Why is Senator Lieberman Taking the Lead on Climate Change?

8:19 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

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Prospects for Senate passage of climate change legislation this year were already slim, but this development may be the nail in the coffin:

Leading Democratic senators tasked Joe Lieberman on Thursday with finding a compromise measure that would satisfy a diverse caucus split between doing energy-only legislation or a more comprehensive approach to climate change, Democratic aides said.

While the fact that Senator Lieberman lends his name to the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act may relieve some casual observers, he will almost certainly advocate an energy-only approach. As Chris Bowers notes, it is hard to imagine Senator Lieberman pushing for the progressive approach here. For a preview of how he’ll justify his decision to think small, we can look back to his remarks on the subject six months ago:

"I don’t think the Senate has an appetite for another such epic, polarized legislative war this session," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who met with Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) on Wednesday to strategize on how to enlist support for a compromise climate bill they are writing.

Now, I’m increasingly convinced that a bill that doesn’t explicitly address climate change is the best path forward this year. As unfortunate as it is, the United States Senate simply is not in the right place to do what needs to be done: put a price on carbon. Even the Kerry-Lieberman effort to lure Republican support by incorporating many Republican ideas into the legislation fell flat, failing to attract a single cosponsor. I’d be happy with a bill that made investments in clean energy and efficiency, while also holding BP accountable and tightening oil industry regulations. I’d be even happier if they moved a bill like that and allowed amendment votes on implementing a Renewable Electricity Standard, banning offshore drilling, making major investments in high speed rail and providing federal grant money to innovative transit solutions.

But that doesn’t appear to be the direction Reid is steering Lieberman:

Lieberman, an independent Democrat from Connecticut, was asked to work with Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to find a compromise.

As David Dayen has repeatedly explained, Bingaman’s ACELA package that passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year is quite possibly worse than the status quo. It is the weakest form of energy-only legislation currently on the table, and it more closely reflects something you’d expect Republicans to put forward than what you’d hope to see from Democrats.

And Max Baucus, as evidenced by his role in the health care debate, is just about the last person you’d want to get input from on something this important. He seems more interested in slow-walking legislation for the sake of the appearance of bipartisanship than actually addressing problems. On top of that, Baucus has never shown an actual interest in or understanding of taking serious action on climate change or energy.

Meanwhile, there are several Senators who actually understand the scope of the problem and have worked for years to address it:

Senator Boxer was squeezed out of negotiations last fall after Republicans in her committee orchestrated a massive temper tantrum and failed to show up for a vote.

Senator Sanders has several good amendments that represent an excellent starting point for discussions.

And Senator Merkley is outlining a proposal today to significantly reduce demand for oil.

It isn’t clear why these three Senators — folks who actually have good ideas on the issue — aren’t being asked to help plot out the path forward.

Putting Joe Lieberman in charge of plotting the path forward, and instructing him to do so with the input of Senators Bingaman and Baucus, is a surefire recipe for screwing up a rare opportunity to move decent legislation. When Lieberman botches this, Senator Reid will share the blame.

No Shortage of Blame to Go Around for the Demise of Climate Legislation

6:50 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

I’ve been on the offensive against Senator Graham for the past two days, expressing frustration with his mind-boggling hypocrisy and wholly apparent lack of integrity. I believe his participation in the crafting of climate change legislation was completely disingenuous, and I don’t think he ever actually intended to see it through to completion. His rhetoric throughout the process has been anything but helpful, and it was becoming apparent by mid-March that he was looking for an excuse to bail on the effort, blaming superficial process concerns for his lack of resolve. And as it turned out, that is exactly what happened yesterday. If Democrats have an ounce of sense they’ll never again take anything Senator Graham says at face value.

Now, that doesn’t at all mean that Harry Reid doesn’t share the blame for the Senate’s failure to address the issue this year. Those who blame Senator Reid for his decision to prioritize immigration reform over the climate bill make a number of good points. Senator Reid’s decision does in fact appear to be, as Senator Graham put it, a cynical political ploy designed to shore up his chances to maintain his seat this November. So yes, I think Senator Reid’s decision, which may have been implicitly backed by the Obama administration, was a plainly political move that played no small part in how all of this unfolded.

But that does not at all mean that Senator Graham has no agency in this. David Roberts writes:

It looks like an ass-covering decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is about to scuttle efforts to bring a climate/energy bill to the floor this year.

How exactly is Senator Reid responsible for Senator Graham’s decision to reverse course? That decision was Senator Graham’s alone, regardless of how he frames it or who he tries to pin the blame on. Even after rumors began circulating that immigration was being prioritized over climate, Senator Kerry indicated that he still intended to move forward with his bill. And indeed, if Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman had introduced their bill on Monday and managed to cobble together 60 votes, Harry Reid would have brought it to the floor for a vote. I’m quite certain of that. Yes, Senator Reid hurt the cause by making a foolish and politically selfish decision. But Senator Graham was the one who put the nail in the coffin, and he probably would have come up with some other excuse to do so if this hadn’t come along.

Moving on, I’m baffled by Jon Chait’s truly strange argument that Graham is actually in the right here. He writes:

As for bad faith, Graham is a Republican Senator from South Carolina. His highest risk of losing his seat, by far, comes from the prospect of a conservative primary challenger. Indeed, I’d say that prospect is far from remote, and Graham is displaying an unusual willingness to risk his political future. He has little incentive to negotiate on these issues except that he believes it’s the right thing to do. So when Democrats put climate change on the backburner to take up immigration, and do so for obviously political reasons, Graham has every right to be angry. He’s risking his political life to address a vital issue, and Harry Reid is looking to save his seat.

Both of the bolded sections above seem to ignore who Senator Graham is and what he is about. On the claim that Graham’s motivation for working on this bill was entirely pure, I’d love to see some substantiation. Graham may have been working on the bill in order to weaken it at every step in the process, in a role similar to the one Chuck Grassley played as the health care bill moved through the Senate Finance Committee. And indeed, that is what he has been doing throughout the process, all the while taking every opportunity to stick his thumb in the eye of environmentalists, as insult to injury. Republicans frequently pretend to be interested in working on an issue in a bipartisan manner when they are actually just trying to weaken or derail it. This is not a new tactic, and Democrats are going to have to stop falling for it eventually. Or perhaps Senator Graham was trying to bolster his image as somewhat of a maverick who would love to pass bipartisan bills if it weren’t for those hyper-partisan Democrats. As David Dayen notes, this is classic Lindsey Graham:

I think Graham was dying for a reason to kill these bills where he was the “sensible Republican moderate” on them. This has been his pose for some time, to show to Washington that he’s willing to work across the aisle, but to never actually do it.

Based on how this has played out, either of those two scenarios seems far more likely to have been Graham’s motivation than that he simply ‘believes its the right thing to do.’

On Chait’s other point, that Graham ‘has every right to be angry,’ I agree, but with a caveat. Graham would have found an excuse to throw a fit and bail on the effort regardless. Whether it was the use of reconciliation on unrelated legislation, the Constitutionality of healthcare reform, or some other perceived slight, it was becoming pretty clear that Graham was searching for an excuse to take his ball and go home. Graham was going to throw a tantrum no matter what. Harry Reid just made it easier for him by making a selfish blunder at the worst possible moment.

Is Senator Kerry’s Staff Misleading Constituents About the Climate Bill?

6:30 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

In addition to brewing fights over offshore drilling revenues and a host of other issues, the conflict over whether or not federal climate legislation should pre-empt the Clean Air Act continues to heat up. As it stands, the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. A variety of Senators, ranging from Rockefeller on the Democratic side, to Murkowski (R – Big Oil) on the Republican side, initiated unsuccessful efforts earlier this year to take this authority away.

As part of the grand compromise being crafted by Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman, rumors have been circulating that this authority will be taken away, effectively weakening the strongest environmental law on the books. As recently as earlier this week Senator Graham indicated that the bill would include such a provision.

Several Senators, including 10 industrial-state Democrats as well as Voinovich (R-OH) have indicated that taking this step to weaken the Clean Air Act is necessary for them to support the bill. These Senators are at odds with most environmentalists, who maintain that EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, while not a perfect tool, should be maintained as a backstop regardless. Both the Sierra Club and 1Sky have made it clear that they will oppose any climate legislation that prevents the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the context for the latest grassroots action campaign initiated by CREDO. Seeking clarity on how Senator Kerry plans to deal with this disagreement, CREDO has generated over 700 phone calls to the Senator, asking where he stands. Here is the relevant part of the script callers are using:

The Clean Air Act should not be compromised, rolled back or used as a bargaining chip as part of any deal to bring energy or climate change legislation to the floor of the Senate. Sen. Kerry has long been an environmental champion but he is putting his legacy at risk.

Will Senator Kerry protect the Clean Air Act authority and fight any effort to roll back the Clean Air Act in congress?

CREDO then asked activists who called to let them know how Senator Kerry’s staff responded. CREDO has provided EnviroKnow with a sampling of how activists reported staff responses to this question. Their responses largely indicated that Senator Kerry will not be compromising the Clean Air Act in order to reach a deal on climate legislation. Here are some highlights:

Staffer says there is "no truth to the rumor" that Kerry is poised to compromise.Asked if Senator Kerry supported the clean air act. Person replied, "He’s doing just that" and hung up.

Claims Sen Kerry is trying to strengthen, not weaken, the Clean Air Act.

His aide said "Sen. Kerry wouldn’t do that!" When I said I didn’t want him to use the CAA as a bargaining chip…

I just spoke to one of Senator Kerry’s aides who flatly denied that Sen. Kerry is trying to compromise the Clean Air Act, indeed, he say the senator is trying to strengthen it.

Man who answered says we’re jumping the gun. Says bill has not been released yet and won’t be until Monday. Says Kerry would never do anything to weaken the Clean Air Act.

Person answering phone claims he will not compromise Clean Air Act.

Staffer said Kerry is a big supporter of the environment and he will absolutely not allow the Clean Air Act to be weakened!

Strong statement Kerry will not under any circumstances consider any suggestion to weaken the Clean Air Act or to limit the EPA’s powers under it.

It seems pretty unequivocal: Senator Kerry is not willing to compromise the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. It should be interesting to see how other Senators react to this when the draft language is released on Monday.

Reid and Pelosi Willing to Punt on Climate and Energy Legislation?

7:04 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

I’m not sure what to make of this:

Democratic leaders are pushing ahead with plans to move comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year — even if it means punting on energy legislation until next Congress.

According to Senate Democratic aides, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed during a Tuesday afternoon meeting that a “moral imperative” exists to move immigration reform in 2010. The decision to press ahead on such a controversial issue now — in an election year — comes even though Democrats have had little success attracting GOP support for their initiatives in the 111th Congress. Hispanic Members have been ramping up the pressure on President Barack Obama to force the issue with Congress.

During the meeting, Reid “reiterated his intention to move forward” this year on immigration reform, one aide said, adding that Pelosi agreed it is a top priority, even beyond energy legislation.

“The Speaker did agree that if faced with a choice between energy and immigration, she’d go with immigration,” the aide said.

A few things don’t really make sense here:

  1. Senator Reid has been saying about once a month (2/24, 3/22, 4/12) that he plans to move energy/climate legislation this year.
  2. Five days ago President Obama called climate legislation a foundational priority that has to be done soon.
  3. The bit about Pelosi saying immigration reform is a higher priority than energy is obviously not true: The House already passed climate/energy legislation last June.

Is this another example of politicians promising something they have no intention of delivering or a trial balloon waiting to be popped?

Update — Senator Graham is already pushing back on this:

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican point man on both immigration and climate control, told reporters that the Senate was not prepared to debate immigration reform this year."I think we ought to take it up next year with the new Congress," Graham said.

Asked why Reid is now pushing it, Graham said, "I think it’s because he is in an election and he has a big Hispanic vote, and they (Democrats) made promises" to revamp immigration laws this year.

It is unclear what would happen to the climate-change legislation if Reid turns to immigration reform, Graham said.

Update 2 — Pelosi aides have begun walking this back:

“The conversation was really about timing, not an either-or kind of thing, but timing,” said the aide, who described the talks as a routine meeting of bicameral leaders.“It is all about what the Senate can move first and pass,” the aide said Wednesday. “Obviously on both of these items – immigration and comprehensive energy and climate legislation — we are waiting on the Senate to act.”

Update 3 — The WSJ pushes the electoral politics angle:

Democrats eyeing the Hispanic voting bloc include Mr. Reid, who faces a tough re-election race in his home state of Nevada, where 15% of voters in 2008 were Hispanic. Democrats running in other states with large Hispanic populations include Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

Major Conflict Brewing Over Offshore Drilling Revenues in Climate Bill

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

You know things are about to get ugly when three Democratic Senators who strongly oppose something are met with this response from their colleague:

“If there’s no drilling, the interior states get no money,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “And there is not going to be any drilling unless there is revenue sharing.”“They [interior states] can have 100 percent of zero, or they can have 65 to 75 percent of something huge. Now let them go figure it out,” she added.

Dorgan, Bingaman and Rockefeller must have known revenue sharing was part of the offshore drilling package being worked out. The question then, is, what is their end game?

Is this an intentional attempt to delay and/or block the process?

Or do they think Senator Landrieu and others who support revenue sharing with the states will give in (hint: they won’t)?

Or are they just making bad noises here so they can get something else added to the bill in return for their dissatisfaction?

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There are Reasons to be Pessimistic about Climate Legislation

9:30 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

Maggie Fox of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection has an opinion piece in Politico in which she repeatedly laments the pessimism many have expressed that the Senate will finally take action on climate change legislation this year:

Even before the Senate starts debating clean energy and climate legislation, the professional pessimists are saying it will never happen.

Now the action moves to the Senate. That’s why Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is determined to move legislation forward. And it’s why senators from both sides of the aisle are advancing proposals that can make this the year that the president signs comprehensive climate legislation into law.

Yet the professional pessimists tell a different story.

She goes on to imply that this is driven largely by ‘those who reap benefits from the status quo:’

Those who reap benefits from the status quo are funding a stream of negative forecasting and denials of climate change science. But despite this well-financed effort to block progress, we are closer than ever to some real solutions.

There is some truth to this, but it also glosses over the fact that many of us who would very much like to see the Senate pass climate legislation this year — and follow this sort of thing pretty closely — are also pessimistic of the chances.

A few examples from the past week:

Steve Benen:

As much as I want this bill to pass, and know that we won’t see an opportunity like this again for quite a while, I’m finding it difficult to be optimistic. For one thing, Republicans will be under enormous pressure from their party to oppose any and all climate-related efforts, and they tend to buckle when the heat is on. For another, there’s no guarantee that Midwestern Dems will stick with their party on this, either.And complicating matters further, if the Senate manages to pass a bill, the House leadership may struggle to put together another majority to seal the deal.

Thers at Eschaton:

There really is a very narrow legislative window for the US to do anything constructive about climate change. If I had to bet, I would bet on the window closing and our illustrious Senators and Representatives doing jack shit about this most pressing issue: Glad to be wrong.

Ezra Klein:

Color me skeptical. I think the right wing is just too committed to the idea that taxes are always and everywhere bad (even if they’re rebated) and that global warming is a hoax Al Gore dreamed up to annoy SUV drivers.

I’m not trying to pick on Maggie Fox or the Alliance here, and I understand the need for advocacy organizations to put on their best game face in advance of the big fight. I just think it is important for folks to understand that there are legitimate reasons to be pessimistic about our prospects this year.

So at this point, less than a week in advance of the rollout of the bill, I’m with those those who see reason to be pessimistic: the math just doesn’t look good. I’ll have more on this in the coming days, but the basic situation is that you lose at least five Democratic votes and only have one reasonably certain Republican vote in Senator Graham. So you need to weaken the bill enough to pick up another four Republicans or so, without losing any additional Democratic votes in the process. Now, horse-trading like this in advance of a big vote is customary in Washington. But on this issue, at this time, I’m beginning to think the much-discussed ‘sweet spot’ might not exist.

Here are just a few of the land mines Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have to watch out for as they try to cobble together 60 votes:

It is by no means impossible, and through some combination of giveaways to industry and arm twisting they may just get it done this year, but I don’t believe it will happen. Steven Pearlstein gives it a 50% chance and Senator Begich says 60%, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that, as of now at least, the chance of passing climate legislation in the Senate and getting it reconciled with the House this year are no more than 25%.

Tea Party Supporters Far Less Informed About Climate Change than the General Public

7:47 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

The new CBS/NYT poll of tea party supporters (PDF, H/T Greg Sargent) includes a question on climate change:

Do you think global warming is an environmental problem that is causing a serious impact now, or do you think the impact of global warming won’t happen until sometime in the future, or do you think global warming won’t have a serious impact at all?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it turns out that tea party supporters are far less informed about climate change than the general public:

This meshes with a spate of other recent polls showing a sharp decline in understanding of and concern for environmental issues among Republicans.

In contrast, other recent polls have shown that latinos, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and young Americans are much more concerned about climate change and environmental issues.

Obama Was Against Offshore Drilling Before He Was For It

7:10 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

I have to disagree with my friend Adam Bink on this one:

In other words, while I see headlines in other progressive media spaces "Obama flip-flops on drilling!!" and "which guy did we elect President again?!", I see it less as a flip-flop than a validation of (a) a previously-held position and (b) that he is more of a Conservadem than many are willing to admit.

While Adam is correct to point out that then-candidate Obama pivoted on offshore drilling in the final months of the Presidential campaign, he misses a few important points.

1. The piece he cites begins as follows: "Obama said he might support more drilling if it were paired with comprehensive energy conservation measures and alternative energy development."

Obama’s announcement on offshore drilling this week was a standalone measure. It was not in fact "paired with comprehensive energy conservation measures and alternative energy development." By taking this action without the accompanying positive measures, this is a step further in the wrong direction than what was signaled during the campaign.

And indeed, this is the bulk of the complaint from many progressive commentators. Joe Conason calls it "surrender, then negotiate" strategy. Matthew Yglesias doesn’t understand why Obama did this without getting anything in return. Steve Benen and Kevin Drum have similar concerns. While there would have been complaints on the substance of the policy either way — it is after all, extremely bad policy — they probably would have been more subdued if it wasn’t such a baffling move politically.

2. Adam writes, "Drilling has always been on the list of expendable issues." This is simply not true. If Obama said anything prior to August 2008 indicating he was willing to budge on the issue, I haven’t seen it. From at least 2005 until August 2008 — after he had secured the Democratic nomination — Obama argued convincingly against offshore drilling repeatedly. Think Progress has several examples:

"The days of running a 21st century economy on a 20th century fossil fuel are numbered – and we need to realize that before it’s too late."

"The truth is, an oil future is not a secure future for America."

"We could open up every square inch of America to drilling and we still wouldn’t even make a dent in our oil dependency." 9/15/05

"It would be nice if we could produce our way out of this problem, but it’s just not possible." 2/28/06

"Instead of making tough political decisions about how to reduce our insatiable demand for oil, this bill continues to lull the American people into thinking that we can drill our way out of our energy problems." 8/1/06

"Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close." 8/28/08

So yes, for the last 90 days of the Presidential campaign, Obama expressed willingness to concede on offshore drilling. But for the previous 3+ years, throughout his Senate career and the long primary campaign, he argued against it over and over again. This is when all of us got to know Mr. Obama and what he stood for, and this is when Democrats selected him as their candidate for President.

In conclusion, I think it is perfectly reasonable for folks to express disappointment and outrage now that he has actually gone through with a 180 degree reversal on the issue. I’m not sure what any of us have to gain by pretending drilling was "always" an expendable issue or that this was exactly what he campaigned on.