On his website, GOP Congressman Mike Rogers encourages visitors to improve their gas mileage and fuel costs by making sure that that the tires on their cars are fully inflated. It is a rational plan, he freely admits, and an effective way to help constituents save a few bucks.
"There are certain things that we as individuals can do to try and lower our costs," Rogers said on Monday. "And inflating your tires is a good thing."
The problem is that Sen. Barack Obama has also encouraged drivers to inflate their tires. And in this hyper-political environment -- when the Republican Party is handing out tire gauges to mock the Illinois Democrat as out of touch on energy needs -- Rogers now has to criticize the Democratic nominee for backing the same position.
So what did Rogers come up with? A fairly lame rationale, that tire efficiency is an appropriate proposal if it comes from a mere member of Congress but something unbecoming of a presidential candidate.
"If he is going to be President of the United States and talking about energy policy, I'm not sure inflating tires is where he should spend his time," Rogers said on an RNC conference call. "It is a great way to fill a few minutes in a speech that won't really have the impact on the American people that we need to. Again, it is one of those very populist things that, instead of being a service as it was intended on sites like mine, it becomes part of his energy policy. And that is a sham on the American public. It is not an energy policy."
Of course, Obama never said it was an energy policy. A simple line from an 8,000-word speech, his call for drivers to inflate their tires actually echoed similar calls from such "populist figures" as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Florida Gov. Charlie Christ, and NASCAR. And it's smart too. According to the Energy Information Administration, tire efficiency could save approximately 800,000 barrels of oil a day immediately, compared to the 200,000 barrels a day that would come in the year 2030 if the U.S. were to open up the "lower-48" outer continental shelf to off-shore drilling.
When Rogers was crafting his own web page, he likely didn't gloss over these details. But as a surrogate for McCain, the congressman dealt more with clichés than facts. Before discussing tire efficiency, Rogers somehow suggested that the Senator's energy policy would lead to an increase in taxes on clothing and education. Seriously. Follow the bouncing ball:
"[Obama's energy plan] is a tax and punish approach to try and get us to a better place. And I think that is contrary to the absolute devastation that our small communities and middle class families are facing with high-energy prices," said the congressman. "The problem is, our food costs are going up. Does that mean that farmers are next? Is he going to tax them more to make sure that he can offset the higher cost from his own policy position for food? My clothes costs are going up, my kid's clothes costs are going up. Education costs are going up because there is no comprehensive short and long term energy plan on the table, and he certainly didn't give us any short-term relief plan other than some very populist position. But you can imagine where that ends. I'm going to tax farmers more and give that away. I'm going to tax consumers of schools away and give that to somebody, we are not sure who that is. And so when you add up all of the costs where he wants to apply taxes to the energy sector, the biggest losers are people who are playing by the rules today."
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