Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Friday he would back limited offshore drilling as part of a broader energy package that attempted to bring down gas prices and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Obama dropped his blanket opposition to any expansion of offshore drilling and signaled support for a bipartisan compromise in Congress aimed at breaking a deadlock on energy that includes limited drilling.
Which, as a stand-alone position, would be fine. But Obama is already on the record here:
Senator Barack Obama took a poke at his Republican opponent on Tuesday, saying that for Senator John McCain to talk of a “psychological benefit” from expanded offshore drilling is to define that policy as a gimmick.
…“ ‘Psychological impact’?” Mr. Obama said. “In case you’re wondering, that’s Washington-speak for ‘It polls well.’ ”He added, “It’s an example of how Washington politicians try to convince you that they did something to make your life better when they really didn’t.”
…He also proposed to charge oil companies an undefined fee for every acre that they lease but fail to drill on. Oil companies now lease but are not drilling on about 68 million acres, according to the Obama campaign.
“If that compels them to drill, we’ll get more oil,” Mr. Obama said. “If it doesn’t, the fees will go toward more investment in renewable sources of energy.”
Perceptions are important, and this clearly is going to fuel the entire weekend’s news media with charges of flip-flopping. It’s going to give fuel to the McCain campaign’s charges that Obama is a typical politician, willing to change his position at a moment’s notice.
Plus, you know, offshore drilling is a terrible idea.
A bad move here by Obama.
[Update] Obama held a press conference this morning, and further explained:
“What I said was… what I’ve seen so far (from a so-called ‘Gang of 10” energy bill which several senators are promoting) has some of the very aggressive elements” that he wants to see in an energy plan.
“I remain skeptical of some of the drilling positions, but I will give them credit that the way they crafted the drilling positions are about as careful as you might expect… from a drilling agenda. What I don’t want is for the bad to be the enemy of the good.”
Whether or not it’s a good idea to give Congress the benefit of the doubt they’ll come up with a carefully crafted drilling agenda is a different problem…
But, again, the issue here is perception. It’s politics seen through the optics of the news media, which is how the game it played.
Being portrayed as a flip-flopper and a typical politician undercuts Obama’s strongest argument in his favor. He simply can’t afford to allow that to happen, and yet he’s done it again.