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OPINIONS

Get It Right: The Drilling Distraction

President Bill Clinton set an important precedent for his Democratic successor(s): when the public is unhappy with you, attempt to appease the Republicans with dramatic action and pray that your constituents are sufficiently distracted to the point of forgetting your prior transgressions. After having sexual relations with “that woman” and subsequently perjuring himself in front of the American people, Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes on supposed terrorist targets. Undoubtedly, Clinton expected a rally-round-the-flag reaction from conservative critics. Unfortunately, he only succeeded in destroying an innocent pharmaceutical plant, and his political opponents continued to recognize him for the charlatan that he was/is. Despite its failure, this strategy has reemerged under the reign of President Obama.

Having foisted an unsatisfactory healthcare mandate on the American people, Obama has lost strong approval from all but 34 percent of the nation’s voters. In fact, according to the Rasmussen Report from Monday, 48 percent of polled voters claim that they find themselves more closely aligned to the average Tea Party member than to the president. What can he offer to disgruntled conservative constituents as both a bribe and a distraction to convince them that he’s their man? Offshore drilling, of course!

Granted, the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration is not quite on par with the obliteration of an innocent Sudanese aspirin factory. Yet I predict it will be as ineffective in rallying Republican support as Clinton’s diversionary tactic.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the plan would “eventually open two thirds of the eastern Gulf’s oil and gas resources for drilling, proceed with drilling off Virginia, provided the project clears environmental and military reviews, study the viability of the mid- and southern Atlantic coasts and study the viability of drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas.” This is a positive step, we are told, toward freeing ourselves from foreign oil dependence and creating jobs. So, why aren’t drill-happy Republicans dancing with delight? They are likely wary of sashaying into the political trap set by the administration. Not only is there an obvious political agenda driving the “concessions,” but there is also the possibility that the offering may be retracted at any time. An article on Forbes.com nicely outlines such a concern: “The administration’s concessions on offshore access represent a clear quid pro quo strategy designed to secure Republican support for a climate bill to pass through Congress in 2010.” The White House may officially claim that the plan is unrelated to Obama’s political agenda, but most Americans of either political persuasion are not, in fact, blind, dumb and ignorant of the political endgame. Democrats such as Senator Robert Menendez indicate that the strategy must be milked for all it’s worth. “If issues like coastline drilling are being promoted to gain Republican votes and support from oil companies, then we need to know exactly how much support it will actually deliver.” Menendez clearly recognizes Obama’s thinly veiled pursuit of political capital and suggests that he makes certain that the ends justify the drilling concessions.

Moreover, the bone tossed to Republicans represents a rather empty offer. As the Forbes article mentions, “These perceived concessions made on the part of the Obama administration are at the mercy of the Environmental Protection Agency. The president could later use his bureaucratic reach to delay and even negate these concessions…” Consider: the current administration is pushing for drastic emissions reductions in the near future, with the target fossil fuel usage set at 10 percent of the national energy mix by 2050. Current energy usage requires 86 percent fossil fuels. Also, consider the extreme stringency of regulatory requirements for oil exploration in U.S. waters. Even if drilling is approved, it will be years before any oil sees the light of day and effectively reduces our foreign dependence or strengthens our economy. It seems likely that this “peace offering” seeking to garner Republican support for a climate bill that, once passed, will negate the utility of drilling in the first place.

Ultimately, Mr. Obama has succeeded in little beyond outraging his environmentally conscious fan base and earning skeptically raised eyebrows from his political opponents.

Drill, Baby, Drill. Contact Erica at emorgan1@stanford.edu.

  • JMACK

    You know it is amazing how everyone likes to take a shot at POTUS..Nothing he does right or wrong you can’t help but analyse it until it is too mold to grow a beard even. First all of you were for drilling under the republicans and now that Prssident Obama thinks that it is a good idea along with the green options, you are against it..You media bloggers and media love the southern strategy of disparaging don’t you. I bet if he could wipe out unemployment and bring the rate to 2.0, you all would find fault with it. Even when he is the first democrat to give credence to nuclear plants being built again, you find fault with it..Maybe he should go back to staus quo and watch the recession come back, take back or repeal health care so people can’t get any health care again and the national levels rise even further, or decide like some to abolish public education or get rid of the Dept of Education..Or even do away with social security like some advocate..NOT GONNA HAPPEN. You media hypes did not even give him 3 months on the hjob before you tore him apart and there is no president who can come in a clean up an economic mess that has been happening for years and the last 8 years were double crappers, If the media to include you in this blog would be fair about your journalism reporting and not take sides either way like you use to do, maybe the american people would not be so race polorized, class polorized, or economically in the dark because politicians tell us what they want us to know and most of us public do not fact check..You know the POTUS can’t please everyone all the time , can’t solve all of our ills and needs and wants, but if what he does is right for the country, not politically correct, then maybe people need to put their personal biases, greed, power and predujices aside or away permanently..

  • Feeling duped yet?

    Well, it’s difficult to find anybody who believes ANYTHING Obama says these days. Did anyone really take his speech about expanding nuclear energy seriously? Especially with Loose Slot Hary Reid blocking Yucca Mountain at every turn. Time to wake up people-Obama isn’t what you hoped for.

  • Mark Anderson

    Erica, Erica, Clinton left office with a 66% approval rating. How old are you?