Muckraker: Grist on Politics

In an interview Wednesday with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Republican presidential candidate John McCain again suggested that he’s willing to reevaluate his opposition to allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“At least because Gov. Palin is so persuasive, I would like to come to Alaska. I haven’t been there in many years anyway, and maybe I’ll agree to go visit that area and have a look,” said McCain, responding to a question from Hannity about the differing opinions on ANWR that the running mates have put forward.

McCain has consistently opposed drilling in ANWR because, as one of his campaign advisers said, “some places … are simply so special” that they need to remain protected. His support for protecting ANWR has been a green feather in McCain’s cap for years.

McCain’s new running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has said previously that she would like to change McCain’s mind about ANWR. Yet even before adding Palin to the ticket, McCain told a crowd that he would be “more than happy” to reexamine his views on the region.

In the Hannity interview, McCain also reaffirmed previous assertions that Palin would head up energy policy in a McCain administration. “She’s probably one of the foremost experts in this nation on energy issues,” said McCain in the interview. Yet her rhetoric on energy issues has already gotten her in trouble on the campaign trail, as she misstated the importance of Alaska in the country’s overal energy portfolio. And while both McCain and Palin tout the natural gas pipeline she worked to secure, it still exists only on paper.

The two Republicans repeated claims that rivals Barack Obama and Joe Biden are against nuclear energy, “clean coal,” and drilling. (See our previous debunking of those claims — clean coal, drilling, and nuclear power.) Neither mentioned that McCain himself once opposed offshore drilling before changing his position in June.

Here’s the video of the Hannity interview, with a transcript of relevent portions below the fold:

McCain: First off, she’s probably one of the foremost experts in this nation on energy issues. She was responsible for, to make a long story short, a pipeline, a $40 billion pipeline bringing natural gas from Alaska down to the lower 48. She has been involved in these issues of energy in many unique ways, including being on the board that oversights the natural gas and oil resources and other resources in the state of Alaska. And so I think that there’s nobody more qualified to take on our mission of being energy independent …

Hannity: And on top of all the other responsibilities of being vice president, and that means national security, and all the other issues.

McCain: Could I just interrupt for one second?

Hannity: You can do whatever you want.

McCain: Energy is national security. National security is energy. We don’t become independent of foreign oil, we’re going to have greater national security challenges.

Hannity: Maybe I can have you two debate among yourselves on this one point. Because Gov. Palin, you have said that you’re working on Sen. McCain on the issue of ANWR, and you said you haven’t had success yet, but you’re still trying.

Palin: The important thing to remember is we’re on the same page in understanding it has to be an “all of the above” approach to dealing with the energy crisis we’re in. It’s gotta be the alternative sources of energy getting plugged into the solution here, certainly the domestic supplies of conventional sources also being tapped into. And then we’ve gotta remind Americans that an effort has got to be even greater today toward conservation, because these finite resources that we’re dealing with, once the oil is gone it’s gone. And I think our nation has really become spoiled in that arena. So it’s an “all of the above” approach that he embraces, and that’s good, that will lead us to that energy independence, as opposed to the other ticket where they have said, “No, no, no” to every domestic solution that has been proposed. That was kind of perplexing last night listening to Barack Obama’s position all of a sudden saying “yea” clean coal and perhaps “yea” to offshore. He’s so on record as having opposed, and Sen. Biden also having opposed, those. So I think last night coming away from your debate, one of the things that I got out of it is I think Barack Obama is drilling for votes. I don’t think he’s too keen on drilling for those sources of energy that we need.

Hannity: Well you had pointed out that Gov. Biden [sic] had used the word “raping” the outer continental shelf, proponents of drilling, and last night you brought up the fact that Sen. Obama was against nuclear energy. So …

McCain: We’ve got to develop the technology. Go to the United States Navy. We’re sailing ships with nuclear power plants. Visit the French, the British, the Japanese, they all reprocess spent nuclear fuel. What Sen. Obama has done, he’s very good with words. He’s very eloquent. But when you look past it, he has opposed offshore drilling and he has opposed nuclear power. One of the things I was trying to stress in the campaign, the debate last night, was look at the gap between his rhetoric and his record. The most liberal senator in the United States Senate. Go to these websites, the National Tax Payers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, and these other watchdog organizations, find … this may sound a bit gratuitous, at least because Gov. Palin is so persuasive, I would like to come to Alaska, I haven’t been there in many years anyway, and maybe I’ll agree to go visit that area and have a look.