Commentary Magazine


Dicey on Drilling

The Wall Street Journal welcomes Barack Obama’s recent, albeit not very logical, semi-conversion on offshore drilling :

Even as he proposes to arbitrarily soak the profits from oil exploration . . . Barack Obama is finally beginning to bend on offshore drilling. Late last week he said he could perhaps support more U.S. energy exploration, so long as it was part of a larger “bipartisan” deal that presumably includes more rules for conservation, subsidies for noncarbon fuels, and other favorites of his green backers. Leave aside the economic contradiction in allowing more drilling to find more oil only to strip the profits from companies that succeed in finding it. The real news here is political, as Mr. Obama and his advisers have begun to see the polls move against them on energy. With gas at $4 a gallon, voters even in such drilling-averse states as Florida increasingly see the need for more domestic oil supplies. So Mr. Obama is now doing a modified, limited switcheroo to block any John McCain traction on the issue.

But what started out as a low rumble of discontent has turned to shrieks of protest from his base. Really, there is nothing more sacred (other than retreat from Iraq and perhaps abortion rights) on the Left than environmental absolutism. And just as on FISA, the Left is shocked, shocked to find The One has turned on them.

So how’s he going to pull this off? Luckily, Nancy Pelosi and Congress slipped out of town, putting off any vote that might force Obama to take a stand. The Republican minority has finally awoken and is having one heck of a good time without the Democrats. (Did Saturday Night Live or Comedy Central run tutorials for the McCain campaign and Congressional leadership on “Having Fun At Your Political Opponent’s Expense”?) But eventually they will return and Obama will have to let us know whether he really means to support domestic drilling or not.

And more telling, we’ll see if he has any of those vaunted bipartisan deal-making skills. The compromise “gangs” — 14 on judges and 10 on energy – never seem to include him. Odd for such a bridge-builder. But for now it’s plain to see that Obama is racing to catch up to the groundswell of support for domestic energy development. Unfortunately for him, you can’t be both for and against offshore drilling. So stay tuned.