April 1, 2010

Rachel Maddow asks the question I'm sure a lot of us asked after we heard the Obama administration announce that they were going to allow for more off shore drilling off of our coasts. For what? If you're going to compromise with Republicans, what did you get for it? Chris Hayes from The Nation weighs in and offers a few theories on what the motivation might be. Right now I would say it's a question of whether it's some sort of “11-dimensional chess” as Dave Dayden wrote about or as Rachel and Chris talked about them using the "punch the hippie strategy".

As one of those that got punched by the administration during the health care debate, I'm leaning toward the latter. They seem to take glee in demoralizing their base. I also do not trust the likes of Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Mitch McConnell and of all people James Inhofe to be honest negotiators on anything if they think they're going to get any yes votes out of any of them on energy policy. I guess time will tell if I'm right.

Chris Hayes did a really good job of laying out why this is a really lousy political strategy if that's all it amounts to because it allows the debate about what is the "middle" of American politics to continually be shifted to the right. He feels the one lesson learned during the health care debate is that the administration has nothing to fear from the liberal wing of the party since they're always going to cave in no matter how far to the right their policies shift and that sadly the end result is we get bad legislation enacted. Rachel Maddow added this.

Maddow: Well and what we end up with is what we ended up with in my opinion in the two terms of the Clinton administration which is that Bill Clinton was probably the best Republican president the country ever had if you look at the policies that he passed.

I don't disagree with her on Clinton. Time will tell if the same will be said for Obama but so far if he doesn't want to quit playing the "punch the hippie" game at some time during his presidency, he's going to be lucky to be reelected and rightfully so.

David Dayden has more on this -- Administration Backtracks On Drilling; Strategy Baffling:

That really makes this seem like a PR move. The question is: for who? Brad Plumer doesn’t understand how this will get red-state Senators on board with a comprehensive energy plan. Perhaps, he wonders, he wants Republicans to look unreasonable – and they are, today, by blasting this gift to them – but then we’re wandering into “11-dimensional chess” territory. And as for getting Senators aboard his climate bill, well, he does run the risk of losing just as many from the other side of the issue. Bill Nelson signed that bill warning against expanded drilling, be the way, so maybe these concerns have been mollified, but that’s probably not universal. [...]

Two other comments. One, this is something of a mini-jobs bill. Exploration and study provides a small hiring boost in these areas. There are serious externality costs to that, but take it for what its worth. Second, there’s Bowers’ dark take.

As I wrote quite often during the health care fight, progressive groups can get as mad as they like when the Obama administration abandons them with policy moves like these. However, since President Obama is more popular among the membership of those groups then even the leaders of those groups, it is difficult for them to effectively fight back [...] Until that changes, the Obama administration will continue to be able to make right-wing deals with Conservadems, and then do some hippie punching afterward, indefinitely.

And David adds this:

UPDATE II: The only immediate Presidential action on any of this was to protect the Bristol Bay area in Alaska, which George W. Bush offered up for drilling.

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