Things Change

They change especially fast in politics. John McCain thought he was running for Commander In Chief. Now it looks as though the economy–in particular the price of gasoline–will be the key issue in November.

The soaring price of gasoline represents a golden opportunity for the Republican Party. While most of them don’t say it out loud, the Democrats have long wanted higher gas prices as part of their desire to remake America into a land of granola, mass transit and windmills. Most Americans, however, don’t share the Democrats’ indifference to economic decline and would turn out in droves to vote for a party that pledges to get the economy going again, and relieve the pain at the pump, by drilling for oil.

House Republicans are doing a great job of getting this message out. Today Congressman John Peterson offered an amendment in the Appropriations Committee to ease federal restrictions on exploration of the outer continental shelf, which contains enormous reserves of both oil and natural gas. The Democrats defeated the Peterson amendment on a 9-6 party line vote, demonstrating, as Minority Leader John Boehner said, “cold indifference toward the problems of typical families and businesses in their congressional districts and across the country.” House Republicans intend to continue forcing votes on proposals to liberate our economy by developing our domestic oil and gas resources.

But it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, for Republicans to get traction on the energy issue without help at the top of the ticket. Here, the problem is that John McCain long ago signed on to the anthropogenic global warming fallacy. As a result, his energy policies can scarcely be distinguished from those of the Democrats. This was in evidence this morning, when McCain appeared on NBC’s Today Show.

McCain did fine as long as the topic was foreign policy, but when the conversation turned to the economy, he was pathetic:

LAUER: All right. Gas, $4 a gallon. You know, Americans want to know that the next president of the United States, Senator, gets it, feels their pain. But when it comes right down to it, when it comes to the price of gas, is there anything that either you or Senator Obama can do about it if elected president?

MCCAIN: I think, clearly, we could give them a bit of a break for this summer. I mean, I ran into a guy — Senator Obama, as you noted, calls it a gimmick. I ran into a guy recently that owns three trucks, paying 24.5 cents a gallon for every gallon of diesel. He said, “Senator, that would help me a lot to make it through the summer.” So it was just a chance to give low-income Americans an opportunity.

But the real key to this is nuclear power, alternate energy. We’ve got to — solar, wind, tide, develop batteries. We have to embark on a national mission, a national mission to become energy independent.

Nuclear power has to play a big role in that, not only for energy independence…

LAUER: So enough of the debate about whether we…

MCCAIN: But also…

LAUER: … drill in the wilderness areas, because that’s still oil, oil, oil. Your energy plan will take us away from oil?

MCCAIN: Oh, it’ll have to. We have to. Not only because of the compelling reasons of the price of gasoline [Ed.: Huh?], but also because of greenhouse gas emissions.

Lauer wondered, sensibly enough, whether there isn’t something that can be done in the near term to relieve consumers and help the economy. McCain’s answer was a virtual reductio ad absurdum of his own energy policy:

Let me ask you this question: As Americans go to the polls in November to vote for the next president, what do you think we’re going to be paying for a gallon of gasoline?

MCCAIN: I’m not sure, because I think part of it depends on how it looks like we are making advances in — toward alternate energy. Look…

(CROSSTALK)

LAUER: Can we make advances in that short time?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think we can certainly show some progress in the development of a battery that will take a car 100 miles or so before you have to plug it in. And plans for — concrete plans to move forward with nuclear power plants — with a lot of other things.

Somehow I don’t think Americans will be driving a lot of battery-powered cars between now and November. As a final indignity, McCain joined the Democrats in beating up on America’s oil companies:

[T]he point is the oil companies have got to be more participatory in alternate energy, in sharing their profits in a variety of ways. And there is very strong and just viable emotion about their profits.

We’ve been down this road before. During the Carter administration, increases in the cost of petroleum contributed to devastating inflation and unemployment. Like today’s Democrats, Carter reacted with a combination of demagoguery and economic incompetence. He imposed a windfall profits tax on oil companies and regulated the price of oil. Carter and most Democrats told the American people that the country was in economic decline, and they had better get used to it.

Ronald Reagan refused to accept this message of decline. He vowed to reinvigorate America’s economy and did so, in part by rescinding Carter’s disastrous price controls on energy. This year, we need another Ronald Reagan to stand up for prosperity and economic growth. Instead, with McCain’s miserable energy policies, the presidential race is starting to resemble a nightmare contest between Jimmy Carter and Michael Dukakis–only a Dukakis who knows what he’s doing in a tank.

The smartest thing John McCain could do right now is take two weeks off from the campaign trail to study the scientific data on the earth’s climate. He could familiarize himself with the latest scientific work, which has decisively refuted the global warming alarmists. He could meet with distinguished scientists on all sides of the issue. After two weeks, he could announce that his study of the issue has convinced him that the effect of CO2 on the earth’s climate has been grossly exaggerated, and as a result, he is tweaking his own energy policy in the direction of greater support for domestic oil and gas production. The benefits are obvious: high-paying jobs for Americans, not Saudis; enhanced national security; and above all, a recharged economy fueled by declining gas prices.

And, if anyone challenges McCain with the silly canard that we can’t drill our way out of the present gas shortage, he can reply: “Yes we can!”

Do that, and Obama will be lucky to carry the District of Columbia.

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