The New York Times reports today (Sunday, August 17) that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dropped her opposition to a vote on off-shore oil drilling and will now be willing to schedule one in the next session.
It isn’t simply that the off-shore drilling issue is pure pandering, which it is. Nor is it that off-shore drilling will have bad environmental consequences and distract us from developing a real energy policy, which it will. Rather, this craven capitulation on the part of the Democratic leadership demonstrates that Democrats still haven’t learned how to play politics against the McBush Republican Party.
By giving in on off-shore drilling, Pelosi and crew hope to diffuse the drilling issue which has become the most successful Republican ploy thus far. Instead, they have handed an August victory to the McBush campaign.
Democrats continue to operate as if political compromise, jockeying, and horse-trading will yield an electoral advantage. Republicans don’t play by these, or any other rules, however. The drilling question has gone this way: invent an issue (Democrats responsible for high gas prices); invent a fictitious solution to this fabricated issue (off-shore drilling); attack Democrats for blocking this solution.
The Rovian strategy is always to play offense – attack, attack, attack. Further, the strategy is to attack most viciously at your opponent’s perceived area of greatest strength. With that eroded, everything else crumbles easily.
In 2004, John Kerry thought the public would see him as a war hero running against a guy who spent Vietnam drunk and AWOL in the National Guard. What we got, of course, was Swift Boat, and once the doubts were sown about Kerry’s war record, the public wondered if he could be trusted about other things. Never mind that Bush has still never explained where he was during those missing weeks in Alabama.
In 2008 Democrats entered the campaign season with higher marks for handling the economy. Thanks to the drilling non-issue that is now being eroded. McBush still scores higher on security matters, in large part because the press continues to narrate the story that way, and so once voters begin to sour on Democrats over the economy, McBush can win the election.
The only response to the Republican campaign is to attack back. Democrats ought to respond to the non-issue of off-shore drilling by publishing a list of McBush campaign advisors with heavy investments in the oil industry and on McBush's own ties to the oil business. (I have no idea whether there are any – that’s the point. Create the smoke and it doesn’t matter if there’s a fire).
So Pelosi’s backtracking on off-shore drilling really indicates that Democrats still don’t know how to run against this Republican party. James Carville: Where are you now?!
PS: The Times reported Monday on how Western petro-giants are entering a period of crisis because they have run out of places to drill largely for reasons of political access. So why isn't the Democratic leadership calling off-shore drilling what it really is: a way to prop up and subsidize huge oil companies?? For what it's worth, the latest Zogby poll released today (Wed) now has McCain leading Obama on the economy.