09/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

CON GAMES: Citizen McCain And The Carbon War

Well, my friends, if John McCain calls his audience "my friends" one more time I will never say the words "missing in action" again. If he refers to "my fellow Americans" again I will force-feed the Republican nominee with quotations from Chairman LBJ about marital fidelity.

The Straight Talker his ownself made his way to the rock-ribbed Republican Rocky Mountains Thursday for a late-summer idyll, stopping to shake the money tree in Vail and then again in Aspen, going home on the Straight Talk Express with something like $500,000 minimum--not so bad for half-a-day's work and no ad hominem attacks. In between, under the gentle aegis of the Aspen Institute, he did what pols do when they come to the place where power speaks to power: they sit back like movie stars accepting lifetime achievement interviews on AMC, albeit without the kettle corn and film clips.

The moneyed interests hereabouts in Aspen and thereabouts in Vail long ago made their peace with the erstwhile maverick, deciding they could live with him and his melanoma in the face of Obama Nation. And why not? There was much to like about McCain in person on the stump--he was a war hero, my fellow Americans--including his Surging references to integrity, his faux-more-years liberalism, and his cornball jokes about turning his nose up on ethanol in Iowa.

The only thing missing under the tent of the Greenwald Pavilion was a coherent energy policy proffered on the same day the candidate was skewered by Aspen favorite son Thomas Friedman, AKA a columnist at The New York Times. If McCain is so in love with renewable energy, asked Friedman, then why he skip eight votes on renewing incentives to generate greater investments in the solar industry?

Under normal circumstances, the candidate's insistence on a straight-talking all-of-the-above energy policy would have gone down better than a ginseng smoothie. At one point McCain misquoted Chairman Mao in the midst of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games: "Let a thousand flowers bloom." (He actually said that.) But his blooming buffet approach is loaded up with petroleum tone-poems, cantos to clean coal, and a Gregorian chant in homage to drilling anything and everything in sight.

That might have worked before Vladimir Putin ate two big bites of Georgia: the course of human events changed abruptly if not prenuptially for the candidate who wraps the flag about his body like one of those spanky Speedo Lazrs in Beijing. Gas prices have bottomed out, at least for now, and the flame lit by the oil companies for the Endless Drill bit doesn't have quite the wallop it did when prices at the pump were jumping and bumping every time Sloppy Joe, one of my friends, took a dump or went to the pump.

In Aspen, McCain had to confront the biggest story of the day: the transformation of the Cold War, may it rest in peace, into The Carbon War driven by oil and natural gas and Russia's appetite for same. The Carbon War began with the Carter Doctrine of 1976 but didn't hit full throttle until Saddam Hussein, no relation to Barack Obama, invaded Kuwait, followed by the neocon mop-up job that still has promises to keep in Iraq. The new Hundred Years War is actually The Carbon War, cold and hot, destined to turn geopolitical chess so three-dimensional not even Harold Bloom could play it.

Russia, now an energy powerhouse ready to re-constitute the old Soviet Union, knows we can't do a thing about bumper cars that veered over the border like a videogame with a bad attitude. McCain called Russia's invasion of Georgia "the first international crisis since the end of the Cold War," thereby relegating that funny little thing called "the war on terror" to footnote status.

"There's long-term penalties to be paid," McCain said of Russia's borderly police action, "and we can explore those options."

As Willie Loman might say if he were selling crude for ExxonMobil: "Attention must be paid."

Well, my friends, I came away liking John McCain as an American citizen more than ever, while admitting his energy policy is deader than a Dead Sea Scroll. You can't blame him for being confused about Georgia, considering Russia as we knew it has risen from the dead like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction." If the Senator from Arizona is clueless about what to do next about The Carbon War, at the very least he's in good company.