It's going to come up again and again in the next two months. McCain - and the woman he says is the most knowledgeable person he knows about energy - are going to repeat that Republican mantra: "Drill, baby, drill."
The phrase has a lot going for it. It's semi-erotic, it resonates with a certain Missy Elliott joint1, it excites the base, and it makes some undecideds think: Why not?
So here's what Obama and the Democrats can do. They can say "Yes, John McCain, we'll go along with drilling as part of a long term energy strategy, but only under the following conditions:
1. All of the oil produced by new drilling - all of it - must be sold to American markets.
2. It must be sold at reasonable margins, without the rapacious profits of recent years.
3. Republicans must agree to end oil speculation.
So, Sen. McCain, as they say in the movies: Are you in or are you out?"
It would be smart strategy to make this offer now, before the debates. That way when energy issues are raised, that 'drill' mantra can be completely defused. If they don't accept this deal, they're acknowledging that they are acting on behalf of the oil companies and not the American people. They are pushing a policy that will not benefit the public - just their corporate backers.
Or they could take the deal. That would be a good thing, and a real step toward postpartisanship. I don't want to see more offshore drilling, but if we can put an end to oil profiteering - and to the exhaustion of our natural resources to enrich a few - it would be a trade-off worth considering.
About item #3: There is a heated debate going on right now among economists about the extent to which trading in oil futures is driving the price of oil, but an initiative like this would remove whatever bloat remains in the market. It would also ensure that no future Enrons can gestate in the dark like poisonous mushrooms.
I believe in hope - but as the French poet Paul Eluard said, "Hope raises no dust." This proposal would raise some dust. Whether accepted or rejected, it could change the energy debate.
1Here's the Missy Elliott citation, for you archivists: "Why you all in my grill? I'm thinkin' it's time to chill. Yeah, but you on a drill, though. I couldn't even step out the baby blue Bonneville."
(PROMOTIONAL NOTE: I'm co-hosting The Young Turks today with Wes Clark, Jr. Details here. No animals were harmed during the pre-production of our show. But once we're on the air? Stay tuned.)
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