Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 31, 2010

ALL PART OF THE PLAN.... We talked earlier about the Obama administration's apparent intention to allow new oil and natural gas drilling along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the north coast of Alaska. Given that this move could be used as a bargaining chip with Republicans during negotiations on energy policy, I questioned what the White House would get in exchange for the president's concession. If the president has already effectively given Republicans what they wanted on energy, what will he get in return?

A Hill staffer I know emails with an alternative look at the same dynamic, suggesting President Obama is playing a game we've seen before. I'm republishing the staffer's email with permission.

Obama preempts the other side's most resonant arguments, which forces them to come up with more and more extreme claims in order to differentiate themselves. In the end, he occupies the reasonable middle ground and his opponents are Palinized. It doesn't always work -- on the national security/gitmo/Miranda stuff, for example, it turns out the utter extreme positions the right is left with given the centrist ground Obama has staked out turns out to be fairly popular. But even there, the Administration has had reasonable success pushing back on the Miranda nonsense and, because they effectively occupy the tough, pragmatic middle ground, they routinely get cover from non-crazy Republican national security voices, which has helped blunt the force of these issues. (I understand that the term "middle ground" is very slippery and dangerous here, but I basically use it to mean policies that, before the great crazy of 2009 had broad consensus support from large portions of both parties and the Broder/Friedman/Brooks axis.)

At the same time, the policy is a tailored, measured version of what the Republicans have urged -- so, yes, the headline is, 'Obama Allows New Offshore Drilling/Presses For Energy Independence,' but at the same time, California/Oregon/Washington where opposition is strongest isn't included, and there are environmentally-friendly changes to Alaska leasing policy announced at the same time. And again, as we've seen before, Republicans are sort of forced to twist and parse, and even to oppose things they have long supported, just because the Administration hasn't gone far enough.

Finally, by announcing the drilling policy without seeking to extract concessions, the Administration makes clear that it is their policy and they are the centrist/flexible/pragmatic ones -- making it harder for Republicans to argue that they accomplished this or that they forced Obama to do it. [...]

[O]f course, if there was any reason to believe that Republicans would engage in normal negotiation/compromise, then I see why holding this back and trading it for support of a broader package would make sense. But does anyone really think there are Republicans to negotiate with on this stuff? And if Republicans do come to the table, Obama still has plenty of room to give, including by simply agreeing to sign a law that makes proposals like this a matter of statute, not executive discretion.

That's an interesting take. Something to keep in mind.

And by the way, right on cue, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) denounced the administration's drilling plan, despite its similarity to GOP demands, with Boehner expressing his outrage that the president didn't go further. What a shock.

Steve Benen 11:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (77)

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Comments

It's probably smart tactics, given the Republicans' auto-attack response to anything the Dems say or do. It's like Pavlov's dog: Obama rings the bell, Boehner starts barkin'.

Posted by: jvwalt on March 31, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

I didn't vote for Obama to get the McCain/Palin "energy plan" -- expanded offshore oil drilling, the "clean coal" hoax, the nuclear power boondoggle, inadequate support for efficiency and renewables, and no effective limits on CO2 emissions.

And that is exactly what Obama, Kerry, Lieberman and Graham are preparing to foist on us as a "climate / energy plan".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

I presume the plan with the energy legislation is the same as it was with the health legislation. Pay off the corporations so the corporations don't spend billions working against you. That seems more obvious and probable than it being some sort of rhetorical jujitsu.

Posted by: Tom Allen on March 31, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

"...the great crazy of 2009..."

Haha, perfect.

Posted by: Monty on March 31, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting take, and a cool new adjective too!

Posted by: psummers on March 31, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

not to come off as too grouchy around here... but God Dammit!

This is just bill clinton's triangulation on steroids -- given that the newt gingrich and further-right crazies own the Repugnant party, triangulatin' is about the laziest, least statesperson-like politicalization of policy.

and, oh, yeah, it worked out so well fer the god damn 1994 mid-terms...obama scored on health care, and bill dint. granted. but triangulatin' aint the foot on the gas...

Posted by: neill on March 31, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

I've never been in favor of offshore drilling. But if Obama insists on doing it in the name of energy independence, then he should require that the companies acquiring the oil must sell that oil only within the United States. American oil for Americans only.

Posted by: PS on March 31, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

So... the Obama people think they are pushing the Rs to the right by moving to the right.

And the Republicans have pulled the Obama Administration to the right.

Let's just say my champagne bottle goes uncorked. End result: more carbon pollution to our atmosphere.

And whatever energy bill they ultimately pass will go even further than these announcements.

AND.... the Democrats will be validating "drill baby drill" rhetoric without even bothering to say we need more energy efficiency and less waste.

Are we triangulated yet?

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on March 31, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

It's just peculiar that anyone still regards Obama as a wild soshalist radical. Well, I mean anyone whose politics is reality-based, rather than rage-based. Obama's a centrist, a moderate, a guy who taught constitutional law at U of Chi., for pete's sake. Seriously.

Posted by: MattF on March 31, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Big difference between triagulation and this approach is that this approach creates the appearance of win-win scenarios, in the short-term anyway. It also cedes up-front ground on territory that may be underwater later. Let me explain. Health care: in exchange for the big reform bill, insurance companies get $32M customers. Yet the conditions attached to that may totally neuter their ability to make money off that market, forcing them to essentially yield to Medicare-for-all within 10 years and to basically serve in the expanded Medicare-Advantage-for-all market in the future (a la the central European model). In this instance, O&G companies get news they can live with today, but the much bigger investments/bets in renewables and alternative energy sources make it more likely that by the time we're ready to drill (get through the impact studies, etc), there will be greatly reduced demand for oil. Oil and gas wins today but loses ten years from now. Short-term versus long-term thinking. Yield the short-term victory today in exchange for the long-term game changer.

Posted by: Mark on March 31, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

The offshore drilling issue is window dressing. Always has been, always will be. It was a distraction towards the goal of an enduring and robust energy/carbon policy.

We're talking about opening areas up to EXPLORATION. It will be a cold day in hell when rigs start showing up within 100+ miles off the coasts of Florida and other states. State legislators still would have a say.

If it's the fig leaf Obama needs, then so be it.

Posted by: JRinDallas on March 31, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter hill staffer: "Obama's stratefy is this: Republicans win, liberals lose, but Obama comes out smelling like a rose."


Yeah, that's why I voted for Obama. So he could give away the store just to make Republicans look unreasonable.

Posted by: kc on March 31, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

The pure beauty of this is that Boehner and his TeeParteiMenschen are being forced to fight a war on multiple fronts---the "no-win scenario"....

Posted by: S. Waybright on March 31, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Mark -

I'm not sure what possible changes we're going to see in 10 years in alternative energy and renewables that will dramatically lower demand for oil. I can see natural gas as a possible bridge fuel, but we're several decades from being off of oil and gas entirely, and even that may be a pipe dream.

Posted by: Quinn on March 31, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Well at least he didn't cave on ANWR drilling yet.

Posted by: Jamie on March 31, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Mark. But, once again looking at the area being opened and the traditional red/blue state map, the areas in question are red state shores, with the exception of Delaware and southern Jersey. Boehner once again making the claim of what the "American people" want. Isn't Boehner speaking for red state "American people" that are getting what they want off their shores. Apparently he has the Beverly Hillbilly outlook, an oil well in every yard.

Posted by: flyonthewall on March 31, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Called it on the previous thread. :)

Along with half a dozen other non-irate commenters, that is.

And here's another prediction: Tort Reform will be on Obama's agenda before the summer. Obama-style tort reform, that is. Republicans are ceding the pragmatic center of American politics and pulling up stakes for Crazy Town. Good riddance.

Posted by: Jordan on March 31, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Like I said in the earlier thread, this is pure Clinton, and smart politics.

Anyone that has been involved with energy policy understands that alternative energy sources will not meet the current demand. The goal is slow phase-in. That is the only pragmatic solution. I certainly would prefer to drill in the Gulf rather than depend on oil from the Middle East. The goal of a good energy policy is sustainable, energy independence. If you don't like Obama's plan, what's your workable solution.

Posted by: Scott F. on March 31, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Clean, safe nuclear energy is of course the viable route to energy independence.

Posted by: Jordan on March 31, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

More than "19-dimensional chess" or poker the president's methods remind me of the game of go.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on March 31, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Yield the short-term victory today in exchange for the long-term game changer. Comment

Precisely. Heck, I'd love all the things I want right now, but you have to have votes for it.

We don't have an Emperor, and that's a good thing.

Posted by: WereBear on March 31, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

This is probably an overly simplistic opinion but here goes:

I'd like to think that Obama's objective is to start weaning the U.S. off of fossil fuels and gradually transition us into the cleaner energy technologies (IMHO, this should have been started decades ago). While we aren't quite capable of going full force to the wind, solar, etc. route now, it would still be encouraging to know of any provisions/plans that prove we are moving in that direction - quickly. Hopefully there are other aspects to this proposal that proves so. If not, game playing aside, it's surprising and disheartening news to me. Just waiting for more details....

Posted by: whichwitch on March 31, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

If you believe Obama is playing political chess with the environment, you believe that God was speaking through Dumbya. Sorry, this is yet another way that Barry is a disappointment. Just not as progressive as we'd hoped. Sad...

Posted by: Frak on March 31, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

After all the NOs have weighed in, this proposal will be "off the table" leaving the R's in opposition of nothing. Then bring on the BFD alternative energy proposals! Now that is an investment anybody can comprehend and everybody is numb to even more NOs.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on March 31, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Progressives need to relax on policy like this. If you read this article you will see that Obama leaves final decision to drill offshore to the states' legislatures. Additionally, there will have to be studies done by the oil companies before hole one is drilled. That is years away. In the Gulf, drilling couldn't begin until 2022. Where will alternative energy be by that date?? Will there still be the need to drill??

Also, regarding tort reform. The ACA allows for states to act as 'testing grounds' for tort reform on a state by state basis. It's already there for any state that wants to go forward with it. Let's see which ones take the first step and how well they do. Repugs should like it because in both cases, it give the 'power' to decide to the states. Of course, they will call that Socialist too...

Posted by: Gridlock on March 31, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

So let me get this straight.

Instead of pushing for what we really need -- cap and trade, more alternative energy sources, converting cars to electric within 20 years, making solar and wind affordable for individual homes, etc. -- Obama's just doing a bunch of bullshit political maneuvering so that David Broder doesn't write some worthless op-ed about how partisan an energy plan may be?

Really? Have these people not been paying attention?

There's no way in hell to "preempt" the GOP's arguments. There is no way the left can appease Broder. The right will lie, argue against things they used to support, and do all they can to destroy anything Obama proposes, and the likes of Broder (and the rest of the media) will let them do so, over and over and over again, without question, and without letting anyone from the left have their say.

So what the holy hell do they think is going to be different this time around? Why do they think this 11th-dimensional chess bullshit will magically be effective?

I hope I'm wrong, but IMHO, this is a stupid strategy. Just ... stupid.

---

As far as the actual policy goes: I realize we need oil, natural gas and coal since we're not going to just magically get rid of all of them overnight -- it'll take years to convert over all that needs converting.

But oil and gas companies already have leases on billions of barrels oil, cubic feet of gas and veins coal they have yet to touch. They should be forced to use those before touching anything else. Period.

Opening anything before they use what they have is both environmentally and economically idiotic.

Posted by: Mark D on March 31, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus Christ, concern trolls! Have you not learned by now? Obama offers his hand. Behaves as reasonably as humanly possible. Waits for the GOP to respond. They do...unhelpfully. (Not to mention "ineptly.") He then tells the American people, "Hey, I tried," and moves on to do what he wants. If you want someone to yell at, look to your "centrist" "Democratic" members of the United States Senate.

Posted by: Cazart on March 31, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase Trent Lott's tribute to Strom:

"If we'd listened to Jimmy Carter all those years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in today. . ."

Posted by: DAY on March 31, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

American oil for Americans only.

That has no practical effect on anything. At most, our imports would be slightly reduced.

Posted by: dr2chase on March 31, 2010 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Nice letter, but I'm not certain allowing the debate to be framed in Republican terms results in good politics or good policy. It doesn't look like any progress is being made on either environmental policy or energy independence. Just fan service for the morons in the mushy middle.

Posted by: doubtful on March 31, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK
Obama offers his hand. Behaves as reasonably as humanly possible. Waits for the GOP to respond. They do...unhelpfully. (Not to mention "ineptly.") He then tells the American people, "Hey, I tried," and moves on to do what he wants.

Which is why we now have a strong public option!

Oh, wait ...

Also, too: I thought this was a stupid fucking idea when Bush suggested it, and still do. That's not "concern trolling." That's ideological consistency.

Nice letter, but I'm not certain allowing the debate to be framed in Republican terms results in good politics or good policy. It doesn't look like any progress is being made on either environmental policy or energy independence. Just fan service for the morons in the mushy middle.

doubtful

I knew I should've just waited for you to post, then replied: "This."

Hell, I could do that 90% of the time ... :-)

Posted by: Mark D on March 31, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

The Hill staffer essentially confirms what I said earlier. That Obama believes he will win a second term by adopting Right Wing policies and forcing the Republicans to sound ridiculous with their criticisms.

I think that it is a flawed strategy. But, for the sake of argument, let's assume it is the smartest move in terms of electoral politics. Who cares?

What amazes me is that this White House believes it is being so clever by adopting whatever policy it thinks will garner a favorable op-ed by "the Broder/Friedman/Brooks axis." As if this isn't simply the run-of-the-mill, principles-be-damned, finger-in-the-air politics as usual cynicism that Obama ostensibly ran against. Like nobody ever thought of "do whatever is most popular" before Obama got elected.

Posted by: square1 on March 31, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

FYI, I made essentially the same argument back in November:

http://akwag.blogspot.com/2009/11/never-bet-against-barry-obama-how-weve.html

...the President played them all like Manny Ramirez, putting himself in a bad position early on, only to lull his opponents into making a mistake when it counted. Like in baseball, it's fall, not summer, that counts.

Obama's strategy seems to have been to give in to Republican demands until, tempted into overconfidence by the concessions they'd already won, they rejected one compromise too many, exposing the true nature of their obstructionism. That moment seems to have been in August when Sen. Chuck Grassley, a "moderate" seen then as the best hope for compromise, endorsed Sarah Palin's death panel myth, and subsequently sent out a fundraising letter detailing his opposition to "Obamacare." From that point on, Obama could credibly point out, "look, we've given in to everything the Republicans have demanded, and they still say no."

In other words, knowing full well from the beginning that the GOP would never give in to ANY concession, Obama was able to offer extremely generous concessions that he never intended to implement, anticipating that when the GOP rejected even those, he could move on unilaterally while credibly claiming to have pursued bipartisanship.

In short, if you're a progressive who's nervous that Obama is swinging and missing at a fat pitch over the plate, don't be--he's been just what he was on the campaign trail: calm, determined, and relentless. I'm not sure who said it, Jay-Z or Nas, but I do know this about Barack Obama: he... will... not... lose.

Posted by: wag on March 31, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Supplying energy to homes and businesses is quite easy, the infrastructure is in place. Adding to the grid is easily accomplished. Supplying energy for transportation needs is going to take additional infrastructure. You can't pump gas and alternative fuels using the same lines. There are currently available hydrogen fueled cars, but virtually nowhere to refuel. Great for local travel but not long distance or even long term. Now we have the Chevy Volt coming online and now another electric by another manufacturer. Where will you be able to recharge or even change out the energy source so you can keep moving without additional infrastructure? This is going to take a long time, but at least Obama has placed it on the table for discussion and if it takes 10 or 30 years, oh well.

Posted by: flyonthewall on March 31, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

If, Obama gave Boehner a free tanning salon and a year's supply of Mantan, Boehner would still scream "Hell NO". I suppose we should offer to throw in a new toupe, as well.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 31, 2010 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Pleasing the "Broder/Friedman/Brooks" axis? That is just pathetic. Crazy rightwing/"suck on this"/crazy rightwing. Your hill staffer friend has truly drunk the Beltway Kool-Aid.

Posted by: bobbo on March 31, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

" Obama offers his hand. Behaves as reasonably as humanly possible. Waits for the GOP to respond. They do...unhelpfully. (Not to mention "ineptly.") He then tells the American people, "Hey, I tried," and moves on to do what he wants.

Which is why we now have a strong public option!

Oh, wait ..."

Although we do have 32 million uninsured people who are about to be covered.
Which sure does suck.

Oh, wait...

Posted by: Cazart on March 31, 2010 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

By defining themselves only and solely in opposition to Democrats, the Republicans have given Democrats a huge gift. It makes it incredibly easy to drive them into extreme positions that aren't at all popular beyond a small and shrinking demographic.

It's time to stake out a strong Democratic position in favor of Mom, Apple Pie, and Baseball. Rush and Beck will denounce it, Bachman, Cantor and Boner will follow, big laughs all around.

Posted by: Jon on March 31, 2010 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

After thinking about it, I sort of thought that this might be what Obama is up to. Then I went back to the previous post and read BeachMom's comment and it seems even smarter.

As BeachMom points out, under the Adminstration's plan it's up to the states if they want to allow offshore drilling. Now, you have a wedge issue in all the coastal Red States that divides the "Drill-Baby-Drill" crowd from NIMBY coastal property owners. The politics of that is brilliant.

And for everyone in hysterics over Obama "caving" to the oil and gas industries, given the state of the world economy, it strikes me as unlikely that any new drilling will occur in the near term, anyway. Stealing the GOP's thunder on offshore drilling sets the stage for getting onto cap & trade and other issues.

Posted by: AK Liberal on March 31, 2010 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

If you believe Obama is playing political chess with the environment, you believe that God was speaking through Dumbya.
Posted by: Frak on March 31, 2010 at 11:57 AM

Well actually, Frak, God "was" speaking through Dumbya. If you had shown up for GodSpeak 101 in college, instead of hanging out with your pre-Teabagger buddies, you'd have known that, for eight long years, Dumbya was saying "Look at how frakking stupid we Republicans are."

Posted by: S. Waybright on March 31, 2010 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is playing the same stupid triangulation game Bill Clinton used to play: by enacting Republican policies that the Republicans themselves couldn't get passed, the idea is that he takes away Republican arguments and makes them look extreme. This might preserve his own political career (as it did for Bill Clinton), but it's a more effective way of moving the country to the right than electing Republicans is.

Only Nixon could go to China, and evidently only a Democrat can fill the shorelines with new oil rigs and enshrine into law the power of a president to permanently imprison alleged "enemy combatants" indefinitely without legal review.

Posted by: Joe Buck on March 31, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Look, people. Offshore drilling was never anything but a wedge issue. A cosmetic issue. It's all about the optics. Karl Rove pushed it as a wedge to snub the environmental movement and divide Democrats on energy policy. It's red meat for hippie-punching GOP voters, and an axle to wrap Democrat campaigns around. Now Obama has taken the basically pointless idea as his own, so that Republicans can't beat Democrats over the head with it any more.

Actual offshore drilling is nothing but a tiny stopgap in the country's overall energy problem; properly & fairly regulated, it might do some small amount of good. It is no more likely to lead to wholesale environmental disaster than any of the far larger domestic oilfields in the country (most of whom threaten watersheds, ecosystems, air quality, etc.).

Posted by: Jordan on March 31, 2010 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

During the last campaign I thought the democrats were not terribly happy with the position they were handed by the republican proposal to open all off-shore area to drilling.
the dems defended their prosition but I did not detect much passion for the ban. This may be an attempt to get out in front on that issue.

Posted by: stuart on March 31, 2010 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's brilliant on Obama's part. Now it's up to the States to approve the drilling and that's where the shrinking Repub Base will be truly exposed. The people of the States affected will , finally have to support "Drill Baby, Drill" or separate themselves from these Repub Idiots. I'm betting that they may even divorce.

Posted by: fillphil on March 31, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Jordan wrote: "... properly & fairly regulated, it might do some small amount of good."

Mining and burning more fossil fuels is not going to do anyone any good -- except for the corporations who profit from it, and even then only in the short run.

Jordan wrote: "It is no more likely to lead to wholesale environmental disaster than any of the far larger domestic oilfields in the country ..."

And it is no less likely to lead to wholesale environmental disaster.

The laws of physics don't care whether the CO2 we emit comes from Middle Eastern oil, midwestern oil, or mid-Atlantic oil.

Want "energy independence"? Fine. We already have it. The USA has vast wind and solar energy resources, far more than sufficient to produce more energy than the entire country uses -- and that energy is free and never runs out.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK
Although we do have 32 million uninsured people who are about to be covered. Which sure does suck.

Oh, wait...

And we got that bill after having a serious and thoughtful discussion about the benefits of single payer vs. public option vs. exchanges, thanks to the Obama administration's brilliant tactical decision to consider and put forth all options at the start of the process.

Oh, wait ...

The problem here (which some don't seem to get) is that Obama has this nasty habit of taking any and all truly liberal options off the table before discussions even begin. With HCR, that effectively killed any ideas or suggestions proposed by anyone to the left of Mitt Romney.

And he's doing it again with this issue, all to appease the Broder/Friedman/Brooks Axis of Wrong About Everything All the Time Forever and Ever.

It makes no sense. At all. Even a little. And one of these days, it's going to backfire. Spectacularly.

Oh well. On the bright side, I know to never, ever have Obama help be buy a used car -- dude would demand that half of the options be removed, then turn around and offer twice the asking price ...

Posted by: Mark D on March 31, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

As I recall, the drilling plan was panned as incredibly stupid during the campaign and having Obama embrace it doesn't make it any less incredibly stupid.

Posted by: Dale on March 31, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Giving the oil/gas companies what they want isn't even the biggest issue. It's giving them what they want without any overall national energy policy context. Energy independence, that canard of the past forty years, is a lofty and worthy (although impossible) goal, and it has many components. "Drill-baby-drill" and more nukes should only be minor ones, but I don't hear from the Obama administration any discussion of a broader plan that calls for sacrifices all around, including the oil companies.

Massively subsidized huge offshore wind factories are Obama's feint in the direction of an alternative energy source. The economics of that plan make absolutely no sense since all it ultimately does is feed the beast. Energy efficiency, still the most cost-effective alternative, as an initial step towards independence isn't even on the radar screen as far as I can tell.

Posted by: rrk1 on March 31, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Mark D wrote: "Obama has this nasty habit of taking any and all truly liberal options off the table before discussions even begin ... And one of these days, it's going to backfire. Spectacularly."

Well, unmitigated anthropogenic global warming is going to "backfire" alright. Spectacularly.

Take single-payer health care off the table, and we will just muddle along with taxpayer-subsidized for-profit health care, paying way too much for too little. People will suffer, and people will go broke, but life will go on as usual.

But the laws of physics don't work that way. If we take the rapid, urgent phase-out of fossil fuels off the table, and go ahead mining and burning all the oil and coal and gas we can dig up, life will NOT go on as usual. Mother Nature isn't going to work out a deal with Kerry and Lieberman the way the insurance corporations worked out a deal with Baucus and Lieberman. The laws of physics don't negotiate.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Your Hill staffer is nuts. Either that or he's trying to spin you.

The strategy he suggested rewards the Republicans for acting like wingnuts. What possible motivation would they have for joining with the administration on any legislation if Obama is going to pass their priorities without them?

Posted by: Jinchi on March 31, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Atomic energy - oil drilling. Hmmm.... The gop gets republican policies passed and they don't have to do a blankety blank thing. I'm not sure why they want to have the power. They're getting more done this way by just sitting back and spitting.

Posted by: CDW on March 31, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

@secularanimist:

If you know a way to produce a net 3.5 terawatts out of wind turbines and solar panels, the Nobel committee would love to hear it.

Meanwhile, the only workable large-scale replacement for fossil fuel is clean nuclear (working fusion would be nice), though that should be supplemented as much as possible with renewable energy.

Posted by: Jordan on March 31, 2010 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

You know what totally works on a spoiled brat to make them behave? Giving them everything they want. It's amazing how quickly just giving into every tantrum and stupid desire makes a brat into a respectful well adjusted child.

Or at least that's how what the obamabots would have us believe. Their answer to every issue is "Obama is a genius to give the right everything they want!"

Somehow it rings hollow after torture, rendition, civilian trials, health care "reform," big business hand outs, lack of regulation, and on and on.

Posted by: Tlaloc on March 31, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Since people are still commenting, I would like to know how many have actually read the articles discussing this topic, how many actually watched the news conference this afternoon. Then I would like to know how many merely read the headline, saw that Republicans like the idea so therefore it is awful and has no merit therefore Obama is just like them.

Posted by: Clifton on March 31, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

It must be just a "boutique drilling plan".

Posted by: ragbatz on March 31, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

"And he's doing it again with this issue, all to appease the Broder/Friedman/Brooks Axis of Wrong About Everything All the Time Forever and Ever.
It makes no sense. At all. Even a little."

It makes perfect sense, as should have been obvious as early as the TARP:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1570219

The rulers of the parties are unaccountable to, and do not serve, the members. They serve only Mammon.

Posted by: Forrest on March 31, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Jordan wrote: "If you know a way to produce a net 3.5 terawatts out of wind turbines and solar panels, the Nobel committee would love to hear it."

Unfortunately for me, plenty of people have already beaten me to that Nobel prize.

There are already multiple plans that have been put forward for providing 100 percent of the USA's energy from wind and solar. In recent years Scientific American magazine has published at least two such proposals, and there are many others.

Concentrating solar thermal power plants on less than 5 percent of the USA's deserts could produce more electricity than the entire country uses (and can provide 24x7 base load power using inexpensive thermal storage).

Likewise, the wind energy resources of only 4 midwestern states -- which is only a small fraction of the total onshore wind energy resource of the USA -- could provide more electricity than the entire country uses, let alone the vast offshore wind energy resource, which is again more than the entire country uses.

And that's all with today's existing wind and solar technologies, which are improving very rapidly.

As for "clean nuclear", no such thing exists, and in addition nuclear is not cost-effective and takes far too long to build.

There is a reason why wind and solar are by far the fastest-growing new sources of energy in the world, growing at record-breaking double-digit rates every year, while nuclear power is stagnating.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2010 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

A less charitable way to describe this tactic: Obama surrenders preemptively by adopting Republican positions, then calls it a victory if they can't prevent him from pushing their agenda through.

So, regarding Obama's own three main agenda items:

Health care: A Republican-style plan is put in place
Education: A Republican-style plan is put in place
Energy: A Republican-style plan is being prepared

Hoo boy.

Posted by: smintheus on March 31, 2010 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

@SecularAnimist:

I've read Scientific American's sustainable energy article. It certainly looks promising! But there's a reason I said "net" 3.5 terawatts. It would take decades to put 4 million-odd large wind turbines and their transmission & storage systems in place, even on SciAm's optimistic schedule, and all of that manufacturing will be using fossil fuel energy in the meantime.

Even on that highly optimistic timeline, and assuming *other* scarce minerals don't become a problem, we still need a lot of fossil energy.

Posted by: Jordan on March 31, 2010 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

There is a reason why wind and solar are by far the fastest-growing new sources of energy in the world, growing at record-breaking double-digit rates every year, while nuclear power is stagnating.

So, what's needed is a political path forward. The political environment has not been favorable for government support of alternative energy technologies up to this point. I would suggest that the President's proposal helps improve the political environment by taking the "drill here, drill now" argument off the table.

And it's not like the Gulf and Atlantic coasts will be sprouting new oil rigs overnight. Bringing new oilfields online takes time under the best of circumstances. Given the current economy, I question whether the oil companies will be anxious to bring a lot of new production online at once anyway.

Posted by: AK Liberal on March 31, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

If this thread seems familiar, it's because it's like hundreds of health care threads over the past year.

Let's remember: you pass legislation with the Senate rules you have, not the Senate rules you wish you had.

Until the Senate changes Rule 22 to eliminate or weaken the filibuster, Obama needs 60 votes to pass any non-budget reconciling legislation.

As long as he needs 60 votes, he's going to keep making the compromises necessary to get legislation through---and that means compromises that satisfy the 60th most liberal member of the Senate, not the 50th most liberal member.

Like it or not (I don't), that's the system we've got. The question is: how do we change it?

Posted by: massappeal on March 31, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

"As long as he needs 60 votes, he's going to keep making the compromises necessary to get legislation through-"

It's not a *compromise* unless you get something in return. Want to bet that 0 republicans vote for the final energy bill despite obama giving away the store to them?

There's a huge difference between compromise and surrender. This is, again, the latter.

Posted by: Tlaloc on March 31, 2010 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

I assume that we all want progressive policies enacted. Explain to me how enacting policies that Republicans want achieves that goal? Seriously, how is this part of the road from here to there? The twisted logic this staffer uses to spin yet another Obama cave-in is spectacular, here it is in a nutshell:

1. Enact Republican policies forcing them to argue for policies that are even more right wing.
2. ?????
3. Profit!

Well, there's a profit all right, for Obama's and the Democrat's corporate masters, but nothing for us. I can't believe you people keep falling for this shit.

Posted by: Kid Charles on March 31, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

@Tlaloc:

The "compromise" gives you vote #60. Wasn't that clear in massappeal's comment?

We can argue whether the Democrats gave away the store in order to get a supermajority vote in the Senate, but I think most Congress watcher will tell you that the watered down hybrid plan is what it took to override the inevitable Republican filibuster.

Posted by: Jordan on March 31, 2010 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Can't we all just get along?

Posted by: smartalek on March 31, 2010 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

@ Kid Charles:

I share your frustration. However, let me suggest another possible nutshell:

1) Write 50-80% of progressive policies into a bill.
2) Write the most resonant 20% of Republican policies into the same bill, thereby providing political cover for all moderate and conservative Democrats.
3) Enact bill into law.

New law is Democratic political victory, Republican political loss, and mostly progressive policy.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Note: I'm not saying that's how I'd do it. I'm saying, I think that's how Obama is doing it---and his goal is to keep doing it for the next seven years, leaving the Republican party and conservative movement reduced in power for the next 10-20 years.

Posted by: massappeal on March 31, 2010 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

PS wrote, But if Obama insists on doing it in the name of energy independence, then he should require that the companies acquiring the oil must sell that oil only within the United States.

Irrelevant, since oil is fungible.

Posted by: liberal on March 31, 2010 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Boehner seems to be 'outraged' quite a bit lately.

Posted by: Ken on March 31, 2010 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Progressives" are so easily distracted by policy framing or process bullshit. Wind and geothermal industries are growing rapidly under the Obama administration while "progressives" debate nonsense.

Posted by: rootless_e on March 31, 2010 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

I see the doom-sayers are out in force!
And with the same old, tired argument: Obama didn't stick it to the Republicans, therefore he is just another corporate sell-out. Well, if that's all you have, I guess you'll have to stick with it.
Bargaining chip, you say? How? How do you bargain with a party that doesn't abide by its' agreements? We saw that continually during the HCIR imbroglio; Republicans say they can't support such-and-such. Ok, we remove it. Then they can't support something else and when THAT'S removed and the bill is ready for voting, what happens? They still vote against it.
Face it: THERE ARE NO BARGAINING CHIPS!
If you want to disagree with the administration's position as PUBLIC POLICY, fine. Show how it's going to do harm, rather than some possible good. Argue the policy on IT'S merits, not the potential for rubbing Republican noses in it, however enjoyable the latter may be. Republican discomfort should never be the reason for ANY policy; the cherry on the top, perhaps, but NOT the reason.
On the basis of that, my question is: what do you suggest to replace this policy and how are you going to achieve it?
Your time starts...now!

Posted by: Doug on March 31, 2010 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm saying, I think that's how Obama is doing it---"

Exactly! Except, you know, for this part:

"1) Write 50-80% of progressive policies into a bill."

He seems to have missed *that* step entirely.

Posted by: Tlaloc on March 31, 2010 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is so smart! And courageous! He is not afraid to use his position to make political decisions that effectively herd his opponents into rhetorical corners that they cannot get out of without looking like shallow thinkers without political values. Boehner has already taken the bait and started the push further to the right even though Obama just granted him the drilling policy his party was clamoring for in 2008.

Pundits on the left need to take a deep breath and start analyzing past the immediate news of today. Obama has created a vexing problem for Republicans by taking their previously held position and pushing them to espouse even more radical energy proposals not based in reality.

Posted by: Jonathan Evans on March 31, 2010 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

I understand the whole "Obama is a PINO" meme, but I don't think it's realistic. We've had 30 years of Reaganomic conservative policy focused on undermining the strength of government and democracy, and simultaneously encouraging plutocracy and coporatocracy.

Any progressive policies Obama wants to implement have to be done against that generation-long trend. Further I agree with the perspective that he sees his purpose -- and this is what he really meant by those comments about Reagan during the campaign -- as turning that process around and returning us to a strong government and a democracy. Taking smaller wins in the short term in order to move toward that longer term goal is worth it, but it's not at all easy to accept. Especially when there is so much to be done and so many suffering in so many ways.

Since I was a history major at one point in my life, I tend to bounce around historical analogies too easily. Sometimes I see parallels to the rise of the Jeffersonian Democrats against the post-Hamiltonian Federalists, when they were sustainined by little more than self-interest, greed, and privilege. Sometimes I see echoes of Jackson's epic struggles against Nicholas Biddle and the Bank of the U.S. (Admittedly, sometimes I look at the Tea Party loonies and wonder if I've not slipped into Discworld and Ankh-Morpork, but that's another post).

And sometimes I wonder if we're not watching the work of Neckar, in ancien regime France, the last sane attempts to fix and reform the existing, badly broken system from within before the final collapse into bloody revolution.

For those of you who think Obama doesn't go far enough fast enough, I hear you. I do. May I seriously and kindly suggest, that you settle down and help anyway. Raise your voices when it's time, but pitch in and don't be a sullen bitch otherwise. We've no time to waste and much to do.

Posted by: Dan Esch on April 3, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

"California/Oregon/Washington where opposition is strongest isn't included"

Suck on that, South Carolina and Florida! ... you guys love Sarah Palin so much, so we granted your wishes. That's all there is to it, end of story.

Next time you try electing Democrats, and we will try to minimize the oil spills...

Posted by: Ohioan on April 3, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

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