POLITICS
08/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Offshore Drilling Battle Reminiscent Of Iraq Surge, Aide Says

An aide to John McCain synthesized the Senator's two favorite topics into one political thesis today: his support for off-shore drilling and his policy proposals on Iraq.

"This is the domestic policy equivalent of the surge," said Nancy Pfotenhauer, "you have Sen. McCain looking at a situation, seeing the Congress not willing to solve a problem and calling for a change of policy... Then you have Sen. Obama who has an ironclad unwillingness because he won't risk alienating his political base."

Clearly, the McCain campaign is going to great efforts to paint the Senator as a "High Noon" type: the principled antagonist in ideological fights. But it's hard not to consider Pfotenhauer -- whose comments came during a conference call with bloggers -- in the context of McCain's history on offshore drilling. Three weeks before he began advocating the benefits of the policy, he told a town hall gathering that it would provide no short-term relief. Moreover, every reasonable economist - including many on McCain's list of endorsers - doesn't believe offshore drilling will have an immediate affect on gas prices.

Nevertheless, it is quite evident that McCain and his aides see energy as a key issue around which the election will be decided. By comparing his call for off-shore drilling to his advocacy of the surge his aides are deliberately attempting to raise the stakes of the debate.

Later in the conference call, Pfotenhauer was asked whether, in McCain's devotion to achieving energy independence, he would move to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"I have heard nothing that would make me believe that he is," she replied. "Sen. McCain has, throughout his life and public career, been a well-known conservationist. He happens to believe there is a reason the word refuge is in ANWR's name. And he doesn't believe at this time that drilling in ANWR is necessary. There are 20 billion barrels off the gulf, 15 billion off Alaska... there is a lot we can access which would send an immediate and direct signal to the international community that we can handle our supply problems and we can get control over our supply problems rather than be at the mercy of OPEC countries."