Tuesday, August 12, 2008


According to an article from Truthout, during an interview on Larry King Live, Nancy Pelosi was almost sounding amendable to getting Congress back together for a vote over offshore oil drilling.

Good grief, Nancy! You traitor! And... gasp... recently Barack Obama has said he might favor some offshore drilling as well. Madness? Maybe... but there may be some method to it.

The offshore drilling moratorium has to be renewed every year. The "news media" hasn't been saying much about it, so many Americans are not aware of this. The GOP can huff and puff all it wants, but it represents little more than posturing for political advantage. There isn't any way Congress can get out of this without a vote on it before the legislative year ends in September anyway, because the moratorium has to be renewed every year. Or, the moratorium can simply be allowed to expire. Democrats won't let that happen.

If the Republicans threaten to "shut things down", will it work for them or against them this time? The last time they did it, it backfired.

"The question for Republicans in 2008 is whether the politics of a potential shutdown have shifted in their favor. Polls do show that a majority of the public wants more land opened to oil drilling, and the GOP may be gaining traction by blaming Democrats for blocking it. But at the same time, a showdown over the CR won't just be a referendum on whether to drill offshore. It will also be a debate Democrats will frame as about whether Republicans are willing to cut off government services for the elderly, children, puppies and any other innocent bystanders you can think of.

"So will Republicans risk facing that charge to force a change in drilling policy? And would President Bush back them up by refusing to sign a CR that includes a drilling ban? We're exactly two months from knowing the definitive answers to those questions. Stay tuned, and just to be safe, start hoarding candles and canned goods."

This is what I think the Democrats need to do, at least regarding strategy for getting out of this one ahead of the Republicans:

I think the Democrats had better have some kind of compromise deal all ready to go. They need to steal some of the GOP's thunder on this issue. It would be a better strategic move than putting up a fight over something that has become an emotional hot-button campaign issue. Also, the Dems will need to avoid giving the GOP the chance to paint them as "capitulators" if some kind of agreement is reached.

Whether Congress is going to let the offshore drilling moratorium expire or allow it go to a vote, the Dems need to be sure there are some things included in any deal that will have an actual effect on lowering gasoline prices. Increasing offshore oil drilling isn't going to decrease gas prices for a long time, and neither is drilling in the ANWR. Saying that over and over to the public is probably not going to make much difference, because the GOP has the momentum on this one. They have already effectively framed this issue, painting the Democrats as against measures that will lower gas prices.

The Democrats must come up with some solutions that will bring the prices down more quickly and they must get such things included in an agreement in Congress. It will be essential that they do it in a way that shows it is THEIR elements of the plan, not those stressed by the GOP, that will bring down the gas prices.

The Dems need to say to the Republicans "Sure we will go along with SOME of what you want to do. Not ALL, because your approach will not provide immediate relief to consumers and it will not promote independence from foreign oil. We will agree to SOME of your conditions, but only if you include some of OUR conditions." It is a matter of necessity that they stress, repeatedly and often, that the position the GOP is taking will not lead to lower gas prices.

In this way, the Dems show they are willing to compromise a bit without totally capitulating to the GOP. Total capitulation in this case would mean political disaster, and the Dems know this. They need to be very careful, and remember that compromise is not capitulation. It may be so in the Republican Party dictionary, but most Democratic voters and many Republican voters know better.

This way, if the GOP says "If you don't do everything we say, we'll shut down the government", it paints THEM as the ones who don't compromise, and calls into question their real reasons for pushing more drilling (as they have been lately with such fervor) by pairing their approach with one of compromise and effectiveness. The Democrats can truthfully say "We are doing our part to provide immediate relief to consumers and to protect our nation's future. To achieve this we had to give in a little to the demands of those who are opponents of consumers, but we are proud to serve our country in this way."

I believe this is why Pelosi is not ruling out a vote on offshore drilling, and that it is also why Obama is saying he might be willing to support some of those activities. To do otherwise would be politically suicidal in such an important election year. Through a willingness to give up a little (i.e. allow some limited offshore drilling) in order to get something back that will have a more immediate political benefit by causing consumers to have more confidence in the Democrats than in the GOP, the Dems come out ahead.


Blogger J. Marquis said...

I agree, Snave. If the Dems can use a drilling compromise to boost government funding for alternative energy, I'm all for it.

My feeling is, at the rate technology is moving forward cars that run entirely on petroleum-based fuel will be obsolete within five years anyway.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

This is all assuming the Democrats have that backup plan at the ready AND the messaging to sell it to the goobers that make up the electorate.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

I don't mind offshore drilling being one small part of a comprehensive plan. So far the Republicans have defeated bills that would:

Make the trading process more open and transparent, so regulators could tell if speculators are driving up oil prices;

Require oil companies to drill on some of the 68 million acres they're already leasing; and

Renew tax credits for renewable energy development.

There was barely a peep from the "media" about any of those 3 bills. But every time a Republican bleats about "Democrats won't let us drill offshore!" the "media" duly recites it.

If there's a bill that includes some offshore drilling AND those other 3 measures, I'd be in favor of an up or down vote on the entire bill -- no amendments.

And if the Republicans balk, the Democrats (for once in their pathetic lives) will need to communicate their message that Republicans are the cause of high oil prices.

6:08 PM  

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