Sunday, August 3, 2008

Obama grudgingly endorses energy compromise that includes offshore drilling

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Friday he would be willing to support limited additional offshore oil drilling if that's what it takes to enact a comprehensive policy to foster fuel-efficient autos and develop alternate energy sources. Shifting from his previous opposition to expanded offshore drilling, the Illinois senator told a Florida newspaper he could get behind a compromise with Republicans and oil companies to prevent gridlock over energy.

Republican rival John McCain, who earlier dropped his opposition to offshore drilling, has been criticizing Obama on the stump and in broadcast ads for clinging to his opposition as gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon. Polls indicate these attacks have helped McCain gain ground on Obama.

"My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," Obama said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post. "If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage - I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done."

Asked about Obama's comment, McCain said, "We need oil drilling and we need it now offshore. He has consistently opposed it. He has opposed nuclear power. He has opposed reprocessing. He has opposed storage." The GOP candidate said Obama doesn't have a plan equal to the nation's energy challenges.

In Congress, both parties have fought bitterly over energy policy for weeks, with Republicans pressing for more domestic oil drilling and Democrats railing about oil company profits. Despite hundreds of hours of House and Senate floor debate, lawmakers will leave Washington for their five-week summer hiatus this week with an empty tank.

"The Republicans and the oil companies have been really beating the drums on drilling," Obama said in the Post interview. "And so we don't want gridlock. We want to get something done." Later, Obama issued a written statement warmly welcoming a proposal sent to Senate leaders Friday by 10 senators - five from each party. Their proposal seeks to break the impasse over offshore oil development and is expected to be examined more closely in September after Congress returns from its summer recess.

The so-called Gang of 10 plan would lift drilling bans in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but retain an environmental buffer zone extending 50 miles off Florida's beaches and in the South Atlantic off Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, but only if a state agrees to the oil and gas development along its coast. The states would share in revenues from oil and gas development. Drilling bans along the Pacific coast and the Northeast would remain in place under this compromise....

Earlier in the day, Obama pushed for a windfall profits tax to fund $1,000 emergency rebate checks for consumers besieged by high energy costs, a counter to McCain's call for more offshore drilling. The pitch for putting some of the economic burden of $4-a-gallon gasoline on the oil industry served a dual purpose for Obama: It allowed him to talk up an economic issue, seen by many as a strength for Democrats and a weakness for Republicans, and at the same time respond to criticism from McCain that Obama's opposition to offshore drilling leads to higher prices at the pump.

"This rebate will be enough to offset the increased cost of gas for a working family over the next four months," Obama said during a two-day campaign swing in Florida. "It will be enough to cover the entire increase in your heating bills. Or you could use the rebate for any of your other bills, or even to pay down your own debt."


Why is Obama foolishly evoking race time after time?

By Victor Davis Hanson

And it's still only July...

Obama's problems with race have nothing to do with his half -African ancestry or his own experience with racism and unfairness, but boil down to his deftly wanting it both ways: reminding the Germans he is a different sort of American from what they're used to (false, they knew Rice and Powell well enough), while preempting by suggesting others will evoke race, but in a negative context. But his polls, I wager, will begin to slip from all this, because all this sophisticated triangulation is about to blow up in the public mind.

1) The voter is starting to hear serially from Obama about race; they were promised a racially transcendent candidate, but so far Obama seems obsessed with identity, either accusing others of racism, or using heritage himself for political advantage. This is a tragic blunder.

2) He has the same want-it-both-ways with odious racists: Rev. Wright is a former spiritual advisor, and "brilliant" scholar who nevertheless serially slurs America, whites, Italians, Jews, etc. Ludacris is "a great talent" and "talented" to such an extent Obama wants him in his I-pod menu, and has met with him-but also a racist to be shunned. Ditto Pfleger. A pattern is emerging: Obama associates with or tolerates racists when such quasi-intimacy cements street-cred as an authentic minority or someone cool in the anti-Bush mode; but then when they inevitably revert to form, he not merely casts them off, but is "shocked" at their usual expression, and so like speed bumps they litter the roadway as he barrels ahead.

3). The "typical white person", grandma under the bus riff, Pennsylvania "clingers" rant etc. , 'no more disown Rev, Wright/ but now leaving Trinity Church', etc. themselves are immaterial, but in toto provide a thin margin of tolerance when something like Ludacris or Obama's latest accusation of racism surfaces.

4) Right now Obama does not need to solidify his 90% African-American base or the white liberal adherents; but instead he must remember why he lost all those primaries to Hillary and to what degree his campaign since then has addressed those concerns that lost him those electorates. When a West Virginian hears that Obama is accusing others of racism, or hears him promise that racial reparations will now be a matter of government deeds not words, or a rapper brags he is a favorite of Obama and then slurs Clinton, McCain, Bush in thinly disguised racist terms, it starts to create an image of someone who is not bringing people together, but precisely the opposite.

Why all this? Inexperience and hubris-the same overconfidence that makes him say we need a Pentagon-sized new civilian aid department, to inflate our tires to avoid drilling, and must stop merely talking about reparations and starting doing something about them. His handlers need to return to the teleprompter, since all these incidents have in common the impromptu moment.


Some good Obamology from Taranto

This is rich. A dispatch by the Associated Press's Mike Glover, filed from Rolla, Mo., during the wee hours this morning (4:39 a.m. Eastern Time), seems to be the latest example of "accountability journalism." Glover credits Barack Obama for his high-minded, if possibly unpopular, approach to the problem of high gasoline prices:
Obama is once again betting that his eloquence can persuade price-weary consumers--read that as voters--to take the long view and not jump at a short-term fix when it comes to soaring energy prices.

It worked in his presidential primary contest against New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton when she proposed a "gas tax holiday" for the summer, a pitch he opposed despite its popularity with many voters. But that was in April before gasoline shot past $4 a gallon. . . .

At issue for Obama's Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, is opening up offshore drilling to boost production, a move McCain and others GOP lawmakers say would increase supply and help control soaring gasoline prices. Opponents, including Obama and many other Democrats, say new offshore oil would be years away from reaching consumers and even then would make little difference in prices and the ongoing U.S. need for foreign oil. . . .

Obama seeks to turn the issue on its head, arguing that McCain and Bush are practicing the old politics of simply promising people something that's symbolic without addressing the real problem. Discounting drilling, he proposes energy rebates, a crackdown on oil speculators who manipulate the market and a renewed focus on energy alternatives.

Obama was right about the gas-tax holiday, a temporary measure that would have lowered the retail price of gasoline only temporarily and by only about 5%. But drilling would increase supply, and therefore lower prices, over the long term--and the mere promise of a change in policy vis-…-vis drilling has already reduced oil prices in the past few weeks.

As for Obama's opposition to gimmicks, that promise lasted less than seven hours. In another Glover dispatch, filed from St. Petersburg, Fla., at 11:01 a.m. Eastern, the AP reports on Obama's latest brainstorm:
Obama on Friday called for a $1,000 "emergency" rebate to consumers to offset soaring energy costs amid fresh signs of a struggling economy with the nation's unemployment rate climbing to a four-year high. Obama told a town-hall meeting the rebate would be financed with a windfall profits tax on the oil industry.

It doesn't seem to occur to Obama that the oil companies would pass the "windfall profits tax" on to consumers. What a great plan: You get relief from $4-a-gallon gas, and the only downside is $5- or $6-a-gallon gas!

Celebrity-Americans Cry Foul

Barack Obama complained of racism when John McCain aired an ad calling Obama a celebrity. The Los Angeles Times reports from Hollywood that Celebrity-Americans are also aggrieved over the ad:
Just for a start, industry types say the ad is wrong: In the Hollywood lexicon, Obama is not a celebrity. He's a rock star. . . .

McCain's latest attempt at discrediting his handsome, photogenic young rival particularly galls stars and executives with a memory, because only eight years ago, McCain was a fixture in Hollywood fundraising circles when he tried to raise money from the very people his ad now ridicules. . . .

Most of Hollywood won't return McCain's calls nowadays because many of the stars and executives he initially impressed now believe the maverick stance they found so attractive was just a pose. Hollywood doesn't object to a good pose--unless, of course, it doesn't work. . . .

Meanwhile, Hollywood is gearing up for pro-Obama events--concerts, parties and galas--between now and November. A soundtrack CD with songs dedicated to Obama is in the works (think of all that musical hope available for download to your iPod.) A black and white ball is planned for Aug. 21 in Beverly Hills where celebrities are being invited to celebrate Obama's candidacy. Some of the celebrities who've already signed up to attend the ball, which is being organized independently of Obama's campaign, include: Lucy Liu, Ashley Judd, Jessica Alba, Don Cheadle, Khaled Hosseini, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Dennis Haysbert, Kathy Griffin, Zach Braff, Regina King, Hill Harper, Ben McKenzie, Melanie Brown and "many executives and industry professionals," according event chairwoman Asal Masomi.

This sort of proves the point of the McCain ad, doesn't it? Meanwhile, the Denver Post reports on an exciting event planned for the Democratic National Convention:
In an historic pairing, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and acclaimed actor Ben Affleck will appear together at the 2008 Democratic National Convention to discuss international relations.

It's a bit of a mismatch, pairing an acclaimed actor with a mere former secretary of state. What does the latter know about international relations, anyway?

Triumph der Aenderung?

Yesterday we noted that some liberal bloggers were complaining John McCain's "celebrity" ad was racist because it depicted Paris Hilton and Britney Spears in a negative light. Now other liberal bloggers have come up with a new complaint: The ad reminds them of the Nazis. Blogress Eve Fairbanks of The New Republic asks: "Was I the only one who thought it mimicked the end of 'Triumph of the Will'?":
Play the beginning of "Celeb" and then cue this clip to 9:20. The two shots--featuring a rhythmically chanting crowd in a long, perspectival column--are practically the same.

"Triumph Des Willens" is, of course, Leni Riefenstahl's infamous 1935 Nazi propaganda film, frequently praised on technical grounds even though National Socialism has been discredited. Blogger Rick Perlstein of the Campaign for America's Future saves you the trouble of watching the YouTube videos by providing stills from the McCain ad and the Nazi film.

Somehow, though, a crucial distinction seems to elude both Fairbanks and Perlstein. Whereas "The Triumph of the Will" uses the crowd scenes to portray the speaker in a positive light, "Celeb" does exactly the opposite.


A history lesson from Cuba

History has its lessons. A Fourth of July letter to the editor of the Washington Times-Dispatch became something of an internet sensation, forwarded via email and read aloud in a YouTube video. The writer, Manuel Alvarez Jr. of Sandy Hook, describes himself as a refugee from Castro and recalls what it was like back then:
The election-year rhetoric has made me think a lot about Cuba and what transpired there. In the late 1950s, most Cubans thought Cuba needed a change, and they were right. So when a young leader came along, every Cuban was at least receptive.

When the young leader spoke eloquently and passionately and denounced the old system, the press fell in love with him. They never questioned who his friends were or what he really believed in. When he said he would help the farmers and the poor and bring free medical care and education to all, everyone followed. When he said he would bring justice and equality to all, everyone said "Praise the Lord." And when the young leader said, "I will be for change and I'll bring you change," everyone yelled, "Viva Fidel!"

Nobody is saying anything about Obama being like Fidel. Nobody even has to mention Obama. The point is that blindly placing your faith in an eloquent guy who offers promises of transformative change and sets hearts on fire is a bad bet in most cases. Where are all the successful examples of leaders who quickly swept to power based on a cult of personality and vague promises of tranformative change?


Keep that policy gap wide

My goodness - was it only yesterday I was urging Team McCain to push his energy plan? And now Obama is tossing in the towel on his opposition to off-shore drilling. This may simply be another manifestation of an Obama campaign tactic - adopt every position held by McCain and then ask voters to choose their next President on the basis of youth, energy, and speaking skill. Could work!

But while I am still feeling eerily prescient, let me suggest that McCain's campaign should focus on a domestic agenda. Energy is a real problem requiring leadership from Washington on a number of fronts (trying building a nuclear plant without a Presidential wind at your back). McCain should be able to make the national security and economic cases for increased production, conservation, and alternative energy without annoying his base by getting sucked into Al Gore's global warming fantasies.

As a second topic I would urge McCain to talk about education reform. Yes, this takes us a long way from the days when Reagan promised to dismantle the department of Education, but...

Education is a high-impact mom-friendly issue that has a relatively low budget impact, so it can represent compassion and caring on the cheap. That said, it also represents a slow-motion crisis (or opportunity!) as David Brooks explained recently.

Finally, I think the McCain camp might enjoy taking the national press on a voyage of discovery down the mysterious waters of Obama's forays into education reform in Chicago. There was his failed effort as chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in 1995-2001 [my post, Wikipedia]. And dare we mention that Obama was tapped as chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge by unrepentant Weatherman Bill Ayers, with whom he subsequently worked for about five years? Or a longer conversation about Obama and education would take us back to his first alliance with Bill Ayers back in 1987, an earlier failed stab at reform.

Obama's website offers a pleasing menu of high-minded platitudes on education. Back in reality, Obama teamed up with Bill Ayers twice on education reform and accomplished nothing twice. I wonder if voters will be more impressed by words (Just words?!?) or deeds? I think McCain ought to find out.


McCain Report Rips "Hysterical" NYTimes Editorial

Michael Goldfarb tears into the New York Times editorial board for writing that the McCain campaign's "Celeb" ad was racist. He leaves nothing but a trail of Cheeto dust in his wake:
That the Times made this allegation in a blog post rather than running it on the editorial page indicates that they either knew the charge was bogus or they didn't have the nerve to make their case in full view of the public. But in their new role as bloggers, the paper's editors seem to have all the intelligence and reason of the average Daily Kos diarist sitting at home in his mother's basement and ranting into the ether between games of dungeons and dragons.

In case you missed it, the Times editors argued that the ad was a "racially tinged attack" on Obama because it juxtaposed the senator with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Oh, and the editors also wrote that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis peddled a subliminal racist message when he said that Obama had played the race card "from the bottom of the deck" -- because that phrase "entered the national lexicon during the O.J. Simpson saga."

For what it's worth, though the phrase was popularized following the Simpson trial, a quick Nexis search shows that it was first employed by a Tulane law professor criticizing David Duke in a 1991 Chicago Tribune article.

And following Barack Obama's comments just last month that Republicans would employ racist attacks, Donna Brazile said on ABC's This Week that the race card is "always played ... from the bottom of the deck and sometimes in the middle of the deck." However you cut the deck, sounds like they need to do some reshuffling at the Times.



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