22 June 2008
"Four Dollars a Gallon!"
It was mostly safe to watch Meet the Press again so I looked at the opening segment. Senator Biden and Senator Graham were speaking for their respective parties and the principal topic was oil. Graham echoed his party's new battle cry of "Drill Now," and was reminded by Brian Williams in true Russert fashion that his current enthusiasm contradicted past statements of his on the subject. A regular rhythm developed. Whenever Williams asked him to explain the contradictions, or to account for his changes of mind, Graham answered, "Four dollars a gallon." Biden's comments on the oil companies' failure to drill in the areas already permitted to them and the ten years we'll have to wait for any oil we "drill now" for, made no impression on the Republican senator. For him, the day that gas hit four dollars a gallon apparently ranks with 7 December 1941 and 11 September 2001 as crisis moments in American history. It was a day that changed everything, as far as Graham was concerned, and imposed upon us the necessity to get all the oil we can out of American ground, damn the consequences. This is the story Republicans intend to tell from now 'til November. Whatever McCain's thinking, the party clearly hopes to demagogue the oil issue, to blame liberals and environmentalists for high prices, and to suggest that things can be better the minute we start drilling everywhere we can. Given the consumer mentality of most Americans, this tactic could work. As I've said before, any opponent of McCain needs to be able to explain on a moment's notice why the short-term fix of more drilling is a long-term bad idea, and why limits were put on drilling in certain places in the first place. The Republicans want Americans to think there is no good reason not to drill for more oil anywhere we can (McCain's continuing reluctance to sully the ANWR notwithstanding). The Republicans' opponents must be able to reason with voters on this issue, or the oil issue will become a tar pit for them.