Friday, September 5, 2008


One of Andrew Sullivan's many poor calls is that a McCain-Obama fight would let us emerge from the petty cultural wars of Presidents past.  Instead, as usual, we've seen coalitional gridlock along partisan lines.  It's almost as if people are joining teams and rationalizing their actions as they go along  (Why is fantasy politics not around yet?  That would actually give me a reason to pay attention to downstream races).  

Offshore drilling is one of the few new issues to come up, and it brings along really poorly thought out rationalizing on both sides.  The Democrats would have you believe it's not a "real solution" that will not "bring relief at the pump" for "decades to come."  As if every energy proposal must meet some threshold of effectiveness, must lower prices by a certain amount, and impact soon enough or else it is not a genuine Plan of the sort that "gets things done."  I wish the Manhattan Project failed and people never landed on the moon, so people (well, mostly just Thomas Friedman) could stop conceiving of problems as things which are only solved through Plans.  By their criterion, no alternative energy or biofuel program is worthwhile. 

Behind Republican rationalizations is this bizzare longing for energy autarky.  Somehow the rest of the world buys Middle Eastern oil too and they're fine with that.  There's a bad HBO drama out there waiting to be written on the oil trade, in which Schwarzenegger plays President, and the characters wistfully imagine a world in which oil could be traded without violence as any other commodity instead of it being a game.  Buying Russian oil/gas is probably a bad idea though, and Europe really needs to stop doing that.   

Actually, offshore drilling is probably a good idea, because oil is expensive, so drilling oil makes a lot of money, and money is good.  The lack of influence of drilling on oil prices is a good thing, limiting distorting incentives on generating carbon emisssions.  You'll notice no one else complains when they find billions of dollars lying around.   

I would say more about the Republicans had they said things themselves.  But that's not such a horrible thing.  A McCain Presidency would probably be much like Nixon's: Focus on foreign policy, because that's awesome, and let the Democrats pass more or less whatever bill they please.  Bipartisanship is like refusing bribes; both are considered good, but only seriously considered when the other party controls Congress and you want to stay in power.  And maybe not even then.  

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