Democrats’ energy hypocrisy: Palin versus Obama

Barack Obama's first statement on Sarah Palin attacked her on a number of issues, including energy:

Governor Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies -- that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same."

 It has been well-noted that the politics of this attack are completely tonedeaf. But the substance of these attacks are completely dishonest. In fact, Palin's record clearly demonstrates that she is pro-energy, but has a more complicated relationship with the oil companies. At the same time, Barack Obama can be credibly argued to be in the pocket of "Big Corn" and "Big Coal."

First, Palin's record on energy is clearly more populist than the traditional Republican line. She has found a way to be pro-energy but express some hostility to energy companies. I point to two things: her support for a windfall profits tax. I don't understand the details of Alaska energy policy, so I don't now how to frame this, but I can't imagine that the energy companies were lobbying for this. Then there's the pipeline issue I mentioned previously. I don't now if I support these policies, but I do note that these are clearly not "Big Oil" favoring practices. The take home:

Barack Obama talks about fighting "Big Oil", but he voted for the horrific Energy Bill that Joe Biden and John McCain voted agianst. Sarah Palin, as governor, has beaten "Big Oil" twice.

On a broader strategic level, sometimes we are "pro-energy" and sometimes, indeed, pro-"Big Oil". There are two ways to be opposed to this. You can be anti-"Big Oil" but pro-energy, which seems to be Palin's answer. Or you can be anti-energy, which is Obama's answer.

Now let's actually look at the special interests he has sucked up to. It turns out that Grist, the leading enviro blog, is not at all happy about his positions. Obama's position seem to result in higher energy prices, environmental degradation, and sucking up to special interests.

At Yearly Kos last year, the Grist blog asked Obama about his coal record. What did he do?

So, lots to talk about, but for now: I'm in a candidate forum with Barack Obama and he was just asked directly about coal. He dodged and weaved, said there would have to be a "transition," and that there would need to be "investments," etc. etc.


Grist's anger continues:

The piece notes that when Obama ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, he claimed that "there's always going to be a role for coal" in Illinois, standing with miners in a press conference. USA Today also reminds readers that employees of coal companies and electric utilities have contributed $539,597 to his Senate and presidential campaigns, according to campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In May 1998, state Sen. Obama voted in favor of a bill condemning the Kyoto global warming treaty and preventing Illinois from making moves to regulate greenhouse gases, at least in part because of pressure from the state's coal industry. Fast forward a decade, and now Obama calls climate change "one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation."

The dynamic here is that there is a lot of Democratic union votes in downstate Illinois that are tied to the coal industry. As the Washington Post put it, he is "stuck between industry and environment." Grist criticizes the underlying ideas behind Obama's legislative strategy:

With regard to global warming, the very best we could do with CTL is stay on the same disastrous trajectory we are on now. Does that sound like something that deserves taxpayer subsidies?

Why is Obama giving subsidies to companies in exchange for no positive environmental impact? Because he is paying off his buddies. The big interests in his state, he opens the federal treasury to them.

Let's be clear: Obama is a coal whore.

It doesn't stop with "Big Coal". There's also "Big Corn." A friend who is an ethanol lobbyist says that they are big into Obama because McCain opposes both ethanol subsidies and the ethanol tarriff. (I actually asked McCain about the ethanol tarriff when I was with him on the bus in March of 2007, and the MSM people mocked me)

As the NYT notes in a headline, "Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol." Paul Krugman calls this stuff "Demon Ethanol". Here's what he says:

Well, anyway — the news on ethanol just keeps getting worse. Bad for the economy, bad for consumers, bad for the planet — what’s not to love?

So let's be clear: Obama is an ethanol whore.

Now, Obama defenders will say that he is just supporting constituencies in his states, even if it isn't great for the country or the environent. Sure. That's true. I accept that explanation.

Except that Sarah Palin, who has oil in her state, is sticking to the oil companies.

Which one is a reformer, an independent, and fights special interests?

By Soren Dayton, ago

Several compelling lines on Sarah Palin

I have been floating around the GOP Convention pre-events and talking to people about Sarah Palin. At the meeting of the Convention's Rules Committee meeting, I have heard that women on the committee and female staff were so excited and moved that they literally started crying. The amount of energy from all parts of the coalition here seem very excited.

Over the last 24 hours, I have started to hear some good, positive, fact-driven arguments for her successes. (after all, the optics are great, but lets start proving some details)

First, from a friend in Canada (!), a statement about one of her achievements as Governor. My friend says:

In the past 18 months she's gone toe-to-toe with big oil companies like Exxon, Conoco Phillips and BP to get a $30 billion pipeline deal through that will deliver natural gas to the lower 48 states without being owned by the big oilcartel.

For those who follow pipeline politics, which includes the entire Canadian energy sector, it is well known that Palin has revived the Alaska pipeline project from the grave - this was kicking around going nowhere for years under Knowles and Murkowski - and taken it out of the hands of the multinational companies.   The Alaska legislature just passed Palin's plan this summer.

I don't understand this point. Something to do more research on. What my friend suggests is that she, once again, challenged "Big Oil"

Another point about ethics. She came to power by fighting for ethics in Alaska. She beat the corrupt Frank Murkowski in a primary. She also fought with individuals in the state party:

This is a state party whose chairman, Randy Ruedrich, has been feuding with Palin for years. Palin exposed Ruedrich for ethical violations in 2004 when both served on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — and their relationship has been frosty ever since.

Ruedrich declined to comment at the historic nature of having an Alaskan on the national ticket for the first time in the state’s history.

Contrast this with Barack Obama's failure to challenge Daley corruption, Emil Jones corruption, union corruption, etc.

By Soren Dayton, ago

My thoughts on Tim Pawlenty

There are lots of things that you can say about Tim Pawlenty. My sense is that he represents the future of the Republican Party in many ways. This is, in many ways, the hypothesis of the Sams Club Republicans.

More broadly, we can see Tim Pawlenty as more of a populist than many of the first-tier Vice Presidential picks. In many ways, he is closer to Mike Huckabee than any of the rest of them.

It seems to me that he also represents a generational shift in the Evangelical tradition. He is known as a Republican who embraces even more green positions than John McCain. While I have not seen him speak about poverty, I suspect that he is as articulate as John McCain, Sam Brownback, Rick Warren, and other people of the right who have moved this issue.  In this way, he seems to be embracing the future of the American evangelical tradition.

He also seems to represent a rejection of the donor class which was highly invested in Mitt Romney. Now, this was a rejection by John McCain. If McCain were to win,  that would seal some of that effect. If McCain were to lose, Pawlenty's elevation would likely lay out a conflict between Romney and the donor class and Pawlenty who has a much more mainstream, within the Republican Party, evangelical constituency than Mike Huckabee.

This is an interesting point. Much will happen over the next couple of days and 69 days. We will learn a lot about America and the Republican Party. I am excited that Pawlenty will be one of our leaders in this period.

By Soren Dayton, ago

Hillary’s lukewarm endorsement; Bill’s dousing in cold water

CQ's Craig Crawford thought this about Hillary Clinton's speech last night:

Many of Clinton's supportive words seemed almost tacked on as an after thought. Several times Clinton listed various things she believed in, and then almost parenthetically noted that these were her reasons for backing Obama. In other words, she's for Obama because he agrees with her.

She basically said that Democrats should vote for Barack Obama because they agree with him. But here's what Bill Clinton said yesterday about "Candidate X" and "Candidate Y":

Suppose for example you're a voter. And you've got candidate X and candidate Y. Candidate X agrees with you on everything, but you don't think that person can deliver on anything. Candidate Y disagrees with you on half the issues, but you believe that on the other half, the candidate will be able to deliver. For whom would you vote?

I have no doubt that Bill knew what was in Hillary's speech when he said that line.

As Ben Smith noted, "Clinton did little to sell Obama's personal characteristics, his qualities or ability as commander in chief."

There is still no audio-visual rebutal to Hillary's Not Ready" statements that she made in debates that has become the Republican communications rallying cry.

She and Bill did their duty as Democrats, but are leaving enough out that Republicans, Hillary supporters, and independents have something to chew on.

By Soren Dayton, ago

What is Obama doing by foregrounding Ayers like that?

I don't get it. Some outside group runs a weird, false ad linking Barack Obama to Bill Ayers. And Obama responds. But maybe they are so afraid of becoming John Kerry that they overdid it. And not just a little.

First, the substance of the ad is a problem. It attacks John McCain, seemingly in response to the original ad. But John McCain didn't run the original ad. These guys are rebutting some clown and linking the clown to McCain.

Second, the fact that Obama is running a false attack ad requires McCain to respond. And the central points of that ad will be about that falsehood.

Third, in all likelihood, the buy that Obama is responding to is small. So Obama's ad ends up elevating Ayers as an issue.

Fourth, they are doing this in Virginia. So in the media market of the Pentagon and the Captiol, the Obama campaign is, in essence, running a false attack ad against McCain about someone attacking buildings that nearly everyone knows someone who works in.

Are you kidding me? The Obama campaign is lying about a situation involving bombing landmarks in people's lives?

This is just inexplicable. They are jumping at shadows. That doesn't make smart politics.


By Soren Dayton, ago

CQ: Dem convention "on the brink of a media disaster"

Again, it's all about the Clinton

Craig Crawford at CQ has the story:

The Democratic convention now teeters on the brink of a media disaster thanks to real news that threatens to distract reporters from the scripted show.

And wouldn't you know, it's all about the Clintons. The trouble with the news-free nature of modern conventions is how anything unplanned can instantly get of hand with thousands of reporters in town vying for every morsel of something different.

The word on the street is total meltdown. The Clintons and their advisors aren't even staying for the final speech. Bill Clinton is openly whining about his speaking assignment.

And that's before Joe Biden stuffs most of his leg in his mouth.

By Soren Dayton, ago

Can Biden criticize McCain on foreign policy?

Update: Looks like the RNC is on it. Morning stories in the WSJ and Politico.

The conventional wisdom of Barack Obama's Joe Biden pick is that he will be an attack dog, especially on foreign policy, where he has the most credibility. But there's a problem. In April, I wrote a litlte about Joe Biden:

Over the last couple of years, he has resisted the far-left at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, by refusing to demagogue the Iraq issue. He has generally pushed for responsible changes and a little bit more detail. A National Security Council staffer (translation: Bush White House staffer) has described Biden's interventions to me as "generally helpful."

It would certainly be far from the truth that Biden was a cheerleader for the Bush administration, but I got the sense in 2003-2004, when I was working on foreign policy on the Hill for a Republican that Joe Biden was our ally. He wanted us to succeed in Iraq. He said so on a regular basis. He regularly articulated a hawkish and sophisticated position on a range of issues. It wasn't just his vote on Iraq, for which the left attacks him.

If I were the McCain campaign or the RNC, I would be digging through old C-SPAN, Senate Foreign Relations videos, and the transcripts. He has said lots of things that will give rhetorical cover to McCain and contrast with the attacks that he is going to make for the next two months.

When Biden lays into McCain, all the RNC has to do and turn out his old words on the issues, if not McCain. These will make it hard to continue a spirited attack on McCain.

The irony is that before Joe Biden ran for Vice President, he was probably closer to McCain on foreign policy than Obama.

By Soren Dayton, ago

Simmering RNC Chairman’s race

There is a lot of talk around DC about who will be the RNC Chairman if John McCain were to lose. I generally hear about four candidates:

  • Saul Anuzis, Chairman of the Michigan GOP
  • Katon Dawson, Chairman of the South Carolina GOP
  • Jim Greer, Chairman of the Florida GOP
  • Shawn Steele, incoming National Committeeman of the California GOP

There is also talk that non-RNC-member elected candidates could run. (note that RNC rules require that the Chairman be a member of the Committee, but that can often be fudged with a supportive state party)

If McCain loses, the RNC Chair would likely be the public leader of the party. It is unlikely that Mitch McConnell or John Boehner, the presumed leaders of the Congressional party, would have the time or the umph to be public leaders like that. (although, I have at times thought that Boehner could do it)

The RNC Chairman's race will also have strong implications for the 2012 Presidential primary. Mitt Romney is widely seen as having a substantial foot up because of the scope of his organization for 2008. It is likely that he would have a preferred candidate in the RNC Chairman's race to keep tabs on the whole process.

We all very sincerely want McCain to win. But the maneuvering over the Chairman's race is going on full-speed ahead and we intend to follow that in addition to the Presidential race, Congressional races, party growth, etc.

Consequently, please share information about this with us. We get a bunch as it is, but the more people reach out, the more we can document what is happening and make a difference in the process.

By Soren Dayton, ago