The Senate bipartisan compromise on offshore drilling is, as I’ve argued, something for nothing. But the “Drill, baby, drill” Republican National Convention and the VP selection of Big Oil Super Shill (B.O.S.S.) Palin means McCain has doubled down on drilling. (I say it’s 50-50 that he makes the final flip-flop to embrace drilling in the Arctic national wildlife refuge, but that’s for another post.)
And in his acceptance speech, McCain doubled down — or perhaps gone “all in” is the better gambling metaphor — on the absurd notion that he actually believes in reaching across the aisle. The "Gang of 10" bill is the best chance — indeed, the only chance — the Dems will have to simultaneously give the lie to McCain’s faux bipartisanship and to expose the Big Energy Lie, the absurd notion that McCain and the Republicans believe in an all-of-the-above energy for dealing with our energy crises.
Yes, I know the country already opened up the vast majority of offshore areas for drilling, and oil prices doubled since then. And I know offshore drilling will never lower gasoline prices Americans pay. But we lost that debate. Why? The Dems are simply too terrible and inconsistent at messaging — and the drama-driven media simply refuses to publish the facts of the matter. It is politically conceivable we wil open some of the coastal plains for drilling; if not at $4 a gallon, then when we get to $6 or $8.
That means Dems who oppose more coastal drilling are taking a big political hit for no reason at all. So it’s time for enviros and progressives to get over it. And the "Gang of 10" bill is not just something for nothing. It is a whole bunch of good things — from both a political and policy perspective — for nothing:
- The "Gang of 10" deal is the least possible amount of additional coastal drilling we are going to do.
- The good things in the bill, most especially the five-year extension of the renewable energy tax credits, are simply too good to pass up.
- Forcing McCain to vote for or against this bill — or skip it entirely — could be a genuine political game changer.
Let me drill down on No. 3. Political debates are won by the people who have to do the least amount of explaining. Until now, by appearing to be dead set against drilling, the Dems were clearly not for “all of the above,” seemed to be against bipartisanship, and indeed were clearly against what the public has come to believe he is an obvious part of the solution.
There is no simple justification for voting against this compromise for any Republican claiming to be for an “all of the above” energy policy — someone who bucks his party to reach across the aisle for the best ideas of both parties. And yet McCain’s new oil industry string-pullers hate the bill. A vote against the bill would be devastating to McCain’s entire energy and political message. But a vote for the bill would largely take the offshore drilling issue off the table. And failing to show up for a vote might be the worst of all for him.
It now appears Senate Democrats are smart enough to take "yes" for an answer. This will be one of the most important Senate votes in a while.