The Oil Drilling Rorschach Test

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I was up on the Capitol Hill last week, and a senator was availing me with his theory about how to identify the core differences between Democrats and Republicans. Wake them up at 3 in the morning, tell them the economy is in free fall, and ask them to tell you in 30 seconds what the U.S. government should do. Whatever the nameplate on their door, the Republican will say cut taxes. The Democrat will say increase spending on job creation and benefits. (Here’s to you, Arlen!)

Today we woke up to a similar moment. President Obama announced his long-awaited plan to increase off-shore oil drilling Wednesday. So it’s 3 a.m., you just heard the news. Now, how do you react? I have created a handy crib sheet below. Maybe you will find yourself*:

House Republican Reaction: Outrage, of course. This is a band-aid on a gaping wound. President Obama should not have stopped at the southern Atlantic and Alaskan arctic. As Adam points out below, House Majority John Boehner offered the following statement.

Opening up areas off the Virginia coast to offshore production is a positive step, but keeping the Pacific Coast and Alaska, as well as the most promising resources off the Gulf of Mexico, under lock and key makes no sense at a time when gasoline prices are rising and Americans are asking ‘Where are the jobs?’ It’s long past time for this Administration to stop delaying American energy production off all our shores and start listening to the American people who want an “all of the above” strategy to produce more American energy and create more jobs.

The Senate Republican Reaction: Bitter, bitten-lip, told-ya-so, jealousy. After all, why should Obama get any credit for a Republican idea? “I wanted to remind you that at the bipartisan/bicameral meeting at the White House last month, offshore exploration was one of the job-creating areas Sen. McConnell suggested to the President as an issue that Republicans and the White House can cooperate on immediately,” a spokesman for Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell tells Mike Allen.

The Cynical Political Junky Reaction: Eye-rolling exasperation. Elections are false passion plays, since political promises are often not predictive of future behavior. You remember when Barack Obama stood near the Florida coastline and said, “Off-shore drilling would not lower gas prices today. It would not lower gas prices tomorrow”? Well he did. Here is the video:


Of course, candidate Obama, covering all his bases, also said he might compromise on the issue. Typical politician.

The Pragmatic Vote Counter Reaction: Machiavellian glee. By caving to his critics, you hope, Obama will inch closer to their defeat. Marc Ambinder lays out the case: “[T]he politics of this move is easy: with one fell swoop, Obama deprives Republicans of the major talking point they’d use to object to more expansive government-based climate remediation and energy prospecting policy.” Just look at the headline on A-1 of the New York Times “Obama To Open Offshore Areas To Oil Drilling.” You plan to go hunting for drunker-than-usual Republican campaign strategists at Bobby Vans later tonight.

The Mainstream Green Reaction: Confusion, self-doubt, frustration. Maybe the pragmatic vote counters are right. And it was sort of nice that Obama stood in front a biofuel fighter jet when he made the announcement. But this just feels bad. And you plan to tap your glass and offer a polite objection at next week’s Common Purpose confab.

The True Believer Liberal Reaction: Outrage at another Rahmish cave. Why give something up if you are not sure to get anything in return? “This brings to mind the definition of insanity,” writes one Daily Kos diarist. “[A]fter fourteen months of the Party of No, does he really think that the Republican party will have any interest in working with him on this?” Remember the Public Option. Long live the Public Option.

*Of course, all categories above are gross generalizations.