I have the sinking feeling that the old administration arrogance is back. And that's not a good thing. Brad Plumer reports on the administration's bizarre decision to open offshore drilling:
Back in 2008—during peak "drill baby drill" season—Congress let the federal moratorium on offshore drilling expire. Now this move pushes drilling slightly closer to reality. So what's Obama thinking here? One possibility is that he's looking ahead to the climate-bill debate in the Senate. A number of conservative Democrats and even some Republicans like Lisa Murkowski have said that new drilling has to be a key part of any big energy legislation that tackles carbon emissions. (A separate bloc of coastal Democrats, meanwhile, has warned that drilling would be a dealbreaker for them.)
Still, it seems bizarre to fork over this bargaining chip before the bill is even released. What kind of negotiating tactic is that? Especially since this move is going to infuriate environmentalists—the folks you want pushing for your climate bill. Note that the administration did the same thing with nuclear power, another item that could lure swing senators. Back in January, the White House proposed a massive expansion of the nuclear loan guarantee program without getting anything tangible in return from pro-nuke Republicans. John McCain still wanders around complaining that the administration's not "serious" about nukes. Now, maybe that's the point—offer an olive branch and watch Republicans swat it down and look unreasonable. Right on cue, John Boehner's already whining about Obama's drilling plan. Not sure that strategy makes sense, though.
Another possibility, meanwhile, is that this move isn't focused on the climate-bill debate and is geared more toward public opinion. According to the EIA, gas prices are expected to go up quite a bit this summer (probably shooting north of $3/gallon), and the administration may want to step out ahead of the inevitable teeth-gnashing and garment-rending over the issue. So this could be more about the midterms than rounding up votes in the Senate. Though, granted, this drilling announcement won't affect summer gas prices in the slightest.
I think the White House is believing their own hype again. Somehow, the health care bill passing is now seen as the result of brilliant messaging and legislative tactics when in fact it was an ugly war of attrition that only passed because the Democrats had no choice but pass a bill as a matter of survival. It's a huge mistake to think it was a matter of great strategy because it wasn't. They barely got out alive and they should be very, very humble about their ability to play even one dimensional chess at this point.
I'm guessing they think they can work with Huckleberry Graham and that he can deliver. Dear Gawd. Even if he had the desire to be the GOP's bipartisan poster boy (for target practice), the neanderthals he represents in the South Carolina Republican party will yank his chain like he's a misbehaving pit bull. The likelihood that he is acting good faith is close to zero.
And if they still believe that offering up gestures of good will will work with these Republicans going into the election the Republicans believe they are going to win because of their obstruction strategy, they are cracked. The only way they will win any Republican votes is by forcing them into it because the GOP leadership is certainly going to be doing everything in their power to force them not to. They've proven that there is no such thing as a brave Republican willing to buck their party anymore.
One of the problems with "The Best and the Brightest" fellows is that they always get way too fine with their strategic planning. There really is no nuance with this GOP. You need to be a Grant, not a McClellan. I would have hoped they'd learned that lesson, but it appears they're going to give Lucy the football one more time.
Glad to be wrong about this. Don't think I am.
BTW: On the merits, this decision is crap. They must know that much. And it won't make one bit of difference with oil prices this summer, so any idea that they can manipulate public opinion with this decision is a joke. People go nuts over gas prices when they go up, period. Saying you've agreed to offshore drilling isn't going to change that.