Back On Offense: Obama Gets Personal On Energy Policy

08/12/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Barack Obama sought to regain the political offensive on Monday, painting John McCain as part of the problem when it comes to comprehensive energy reform. Quoting the Arizona Republican as saying that "our dangerous dependence on foreign oil has been thirty years in the making," Obama leveled one of the more direct criticisms he's offered in this campaign.

"What Senator McCain neglected to mention was that during those thirty years, he was in Washington for twenty-six of them," said the Senator. "And in all that time, he did little to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He voted against increased fuel efficiency standards and opposed legislation that included tax credits for more efficient cars. He voted against renewable sources of energy. Against clean biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind power. Against an energy bill that -- while far from perfect -- represented the largest investment in renewable sources of energy in the history of this country. So when Senator McCain talks about the failure of politicians in Washington to do anything about our energy crisis, it's important to remember that he's been a part of that failure."

Obama's speech, delivered in Lansing, Michigan, marked a political role reversal of sorts. For weeks it has been the McCain campaign that has accused Obama of inaction on the energy front.

Perhaps sensing a need to shift that narrative, the Obama camp also released a biting new attack ad on Monday, hitting McCain's ties to Big Oil. "After one president in the pocket of big oil," the spot goes, "We can't afford another." He also, in an apparent reversal -- though, perhaps, compelled by current events -- called for tapping the strategic oil reserves and a limited amount of offshore drilling as part of a broader compromise.

The Arizona Republican and his surrogates did not meekly cede the stage. On Monday, the Senator's economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, hosted a conference call in which he blasted Obama for supporting the 2005 Energy Bill, opposing off-shore drilling, and demonstrating a general unwillingness to explore other alternative sources. The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, passed out tire gauges at Obama's event to mock the Senator for saying (truthfully) that U.S. consumers could save significant money by merely inflating their tires. But the harshest attacks seemed to come from Obama, whose speech at Lansing -- covered by all three cable news outlets in its entirety -- was well-received by those in attendance.

"After years of inaction," said the presumptive Democratic nominee, "and in the face of public frustration over rising gas prices, the only energy proposal [McCain's] really promoting is more offshore drilling -- a position he recently adopted that has become the centerpiece of his plan, and one that will not make a real dent in current gas prices or meet the long-term challenge of energy independence."

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