Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 9, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

CAP-AND-FADE....Larry Kudlow is crazy, so I'm not sure if he's glommed on to something real here or not. Here's what he says:

I went back last evening and carefully read [John McCain's] 15-page policy pamphlet called "Jobs for America." Here's what I found: There is no mention of cap-and-trade. None. Nada.

....So I picked up the phone and dialed a senior McCain official to make sure these old eyes hadn't missed it. Sure enough, on deep background, this senior McCain advisor told me I was correct: no cap-and-trade. In other words, this central-planning, regulatory, tax-and-spend disaster, which did not appear in Mac's two recent speeches, has been eradicated entirely — even from the detailed policy document that hardly anybody will ever read.

The first part of this is easy to check, and Kudlow is right. The "Lexington Project" section of McCain's website still talks about his cap-and-trade plan (after all, plausible deniability would go out the window if it suddenly disappeared), but his 15-page economic plan doesn't. The plan does refer to the Lexington Project, but cap-and-trade has been excised entirely from its description.

In a way, this isn't any surprise. McCain's cap-and-trade plan was a watered down muddle to begin with, and it was obvious his heart was never in it. Still, it was an important part of his effort to seem moderate and bipartisan on energy and environmental issues, and a lot of people bought into it. So if Kudlow is right, it means that McCain is playing a pretty cynical game here: publicly taking credit for a "maverick" stand against his own party while quietly getting word out to the base that he isn't serious about it. Pretty slick, Senator.

Kevin Drum 6:56 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Comments

It'll play well to his base*, so that's all that matters.

* beltway media lifers who want to good seats on the Beer Company Mavericky Jet

Posted by: anonymous on July 9, 2008 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect this is less willful strategy, then forgetfulness. Perhaps McCain only echoes what he heard during his last briefing from one of his advisers. So whomever gets to be the last adviser, gets to determine policy. Perhaps he has several, and they are all pushing their own incompatible agendas.

Now, what are the odds that the MSM will pick up on any of this?

Posted by: bigTom on July 9, 2008 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Marc has already written on this. His hypothesis is...annoying, but might be right:

http://marcambinder.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/07/mccain_sticks_by_capntrade.php

Posted by: Orange Tractor on July 9, 2008 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

McWaffle House

Posted by: Jet on July 9, 2008 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

I noticed its absence as well, but then this is McCain's jobs creation plan, so it could be simply left out as tangential, whereas investments in energy and transportation infrastructure and ideas targeted at reducing gas prices aren't necessarily tangential.

Posted by: Eric L on July 9, 2008 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Its been a banner week for the straight balk express and its only Wednesday.

Posted by: keith g on July 9, 2008 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

By the by, Kudlow doesn't know what "deep background" means. A described, allbeit unnamed, source makes it "background". "Deep background" would be something like "I have learned that . . .", with no further reference to a source.

Posted by: Ken D. on July 9, 2008 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

So if Kudlow is right, it means that McCain is playing a pretty cynical game here: publicly taking credit for a "maverick" stand against his own party while quietly getting word out to the base that he isn't serious about it. Pretty slick, Senator.

It's kind of like what Obama did with FISA, except McCain is aiming at pleasing his base and big money, whereas Obama is aiming at pleasing establishment Washington and big money.

Posted by: mg on July 9, 2008 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

VOTE DIGBY FOR PRESIDENT---VOTE THE INTERNET, ya already know how she stands on this issue.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 9, 2008 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

Say what you want about helm, but he couldn't get away with this:

So what do ya know - obama ACTUALLY IS a lying liar. Maybe Larry Sinclair was right?

Certainly obama's integrity took a big hit today - his campaign staff has lied about his position (and effect) of his support for telecom immunity for more than 2 weeks now.

WHAT ELSE ARE THEY LYING ABOUT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Posted by: on July 9, 2008 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is so pathetically limited and it reminds me of the photo analysis of George W Bush's jacket--where George was so obviously wearing a hearing device during debates with the honorable Senator John Kerry--but that story was evidently and apparently nixed by Bill Kellor, editor of the NY Times...
Said reporter Scott Nelson: "The scientific community last November produced very credible evidence suggesting the president may have been cheating in the debates. Upper management squashed any inquiries.... is this happening now???????????
McCain's current passes by the press seem to reflect the same that happened in 2004 and I personally resent it--as the press play up the superior Obama's so called flip flops.
Can anyone get it together to enumerate Oldie Mc Senile McCain's Flip flop repetoire?

Posted by: please consider wisely on July 9, 2008 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Why the hell can't OUR candidates ever do that? Secretly pander to the base that is?

God Dammit.

Posted by: MNPundit on July 9, 2008 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

Since the whole point of cap-and-trade is to allow politicians to raise energy prices while giving voters someone other than politicians to blame for it, I'd say Sen. McCain is one of many people displaying a degree of cynicism on this subject.

Posted by: Zathras on July 9, 2008 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

McCain's entire electoral strategy is to muddle his own positions, because you cannot simultaneously appeal to the Bush-base which he needs and independents which he needs.

This is why bloggers are incorrect to describe him as a flip-flopper. He doesn't move from one position to another. He embraces one officially and indicates the opposite by his "asides"

Thus he offically supports cap-and-trade but says he "opposes hard targets", he wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years but war will be over in 2013 etc etc.

At the same time the right wing noise machine will accuse Obama of what McCain is doing - hence the recent flap over Obama's "refined" Iraq position.

Posted by: NYT on July 10, 2008 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

The idea that anybody would talk to Larry Kudlow on deep or any other kind of background is simple ridiculous.

Posted by: bobbyp on July 10, 2008 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Russ Feingold is a dildohead.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 10, 2008 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

SocraticGadfly - you are a moron.

Posted by: on July 10, 2008 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

And really REALLY stoooooooooooooooooooooopid.

Posted by: on July 10, 2008 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Eric L:

I noticed its absence as well, but then this is McCain's jobs creation plan, so it could be simply left out as tangential …

The heading is "Jobs for America", but the sub-heading is "Cheap, Clean, Secure Energy for America".

… whereas investments in energy and transportation infrastructure and ideas targeted at reducing gas prices aren't necessarily tangential.

Cap and trade isn't targeted at reducing gas prices, it's targeted at increasing gasoline prices (slightly) and coal and natural gas prices (drastically). So for "cheap energy for America", it's not tangential, it's directly relevant — in a bad way. For "secure energy in America", though, it's relevant in a good way.

… it could be simply left out as tangential …

Broadly, I agree, leaving it out of the economic plan doesn't prove much; it's still there at the campaign website, just listed under "Energy" not "The Economy". So it comes back to what you make of Kudlow's "deep background" phone conversation.

Posted by: rmd on July 10, 2008 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Zathras:

… the whole point of cap-and-trade is to allow politicians to raise energy prices while giving voters someone other than politicians to blame for it …

The whole point of cap and trade is to return the revenues from higher energy prices to major energy using corporations, rather than to the general public via tax cuts, entitlement programs, or whatever.

Posted by: rmd on July 10, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

@rmd:

I thought cap-and-trade was designed to create artificial market incentives to reduce emissions of pollutants. Market efficiencies are supposed to reduce the cost of the changes necessary to take control of emissions, because the firms that can get the most bang for their buck will invest in the changes. But if the cap is set right, the others supposedly will be forced to catch up or have to pay for additional permits to cover their emissions. I realize there can be problems with the system, such as temporary hot spots of firms whose economic incentives don't yet trigger investment, but I haven't heard that it's a boondoggle for the purpose of raising prices, as you appear to suggest. Could you elaborate, or point me in the direction of what you take to be a good criticism of cap-and-trade?

Thanks,

Toad

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on July 10, 2008 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Toad:

"artificial market incentives" = "raising prices"

I'm not calling cap and trade a boondoggle. You can look at it like that, or you can look at it as a way of avoiding the distributional effects of a straight carbon tax (and the resultant business opposition) while still sending the same price signals.

Posted by: rmd on July 10, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

A clear disavowal of cap and trade would be preferable on any number of levels, but abandoning it is good enough for me since the entire policy itself is an act of political hide-the-tax cynicism.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on July 10, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

McCain's cap and trade program isn't mentioned in the economic plan because it isn't an economic plan - not really. It's market driven. It makes up the central piece of his energy plan, is included in his new energy outline (The Lexington Project) so I'm not sure what all the alarm is about and highly doubt that it has been taken off the table.

Not that I'm a supporter, by any means . . . . . but it's important to get the facts

Posted by: Valery on July 10, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

McCain's cap and trade program isn't mentioned in the economic plan because it isn't an economic plan - not really. It's market driven. It makes up the central piece of his energy plan, is included in his new energy outline (The Lexington Project) so I'm not sure what all the alarm is about and highly doubt that it has been taken off the table.

Not that I'm a supporter, by any means . . . . . but it's important to get the facts

Posted by: Valery on July 10, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Can anyone get it together to enumerate Oldie Mc Senile McCain's Flip flop repetoire?

Posted by: please consider wisely

*the carpetbagger report* seems to be keeping a runnning list:

he's up to 61.

your pal,
blake

Posted by: blake on July 10, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

That's understandable that cash makes us disembarrass. But how to act if somebody does not have cash? The one way only is to get the home loans or just auto loan.

Posted by: JOYSnow19 on July 15, 2010 at 5:24 AM | PERMALINK

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