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McCain Running From Bush

Conservatives are railing against John McCain today over his global warming initiative, announced Monday. We've had McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy, and now McCain-Gore?

The anguished question from the right: Why is John McCain drinking environmental Kool-Aid?

George Bush's $4 per gallon gas, that's why. Politics demand McCain leave that guy in his rearview mirror.

Updating the ancient maxim that an army marches on its stomach (no food, no march), it is evident that America marches on its gas tank. The prospect of $5 per gallon gasoline and $6 or $7 per gallon diesel might be the rough equivalent of denying an army its food and America's march could grind to a halt. Voters get it and they're nervous.

When experts say America is addicted to oil, it is probably more accurate to say American is addicted to traveling and as a nation we clearly move around in enormous chunks of miles. That has never been viewed as a bad thing, but "America on the Move" — a catch-all slogan adopted by health professionals, highway-construction advocates and many more organizations — now seems like a slogan for a nation enslaved to the economics of self destruction at the gasoline pump.

For both McCain and Obama, pain at the pump has eclipsed pain on the battlefield as the issue of the moment, if not the election season. Experts at Lehman Brothers say oil prices will drop back into the $70 per barrel range in the next two years, but that is small comfort to voters now.

Unfortunately, while we are at the mercy of foreign oil producers, we have forbidden the recovery of great quantities of oil in the United States itself. Several billion barrels of oil lie beneath the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, which we won't touch for fear of disturbing caribou or the pleasures of eco-tourists rafting the Hula Hula River; tens of billions more lay beneath offshore California and Florida, which we won't touch because local NIMBY's managed to coerce national politicians. Freeing up oil supplies by generating electricity with nuclear power plants has been off the table for decades over fears of another Chernobyl or the legacy of Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda in "The China Syndrome," even though no nuclear power plant anywhere in the Western world has ever been run as badly as Chernobyl and only aging Boomers even remember the movie.

Any of these sources of new energy are years — if not decades — in the future even if approved today. But experts acknowledge the mere announcement that the United States was opening these untapped oil reserves and will be building nuke plants would cause oil market speculators to think twice about yet another higher bid on oil futures. Thus, crude oil prices would begin to recede.

Suspecting for a long time that John McCain knows these facts as well as anybody, I've often wondered why McCain had staked out a protectionist position on opening ANWR for oil exploration. (My personal views on the matter come from having gone to ANWR as a reporter, to the Eskimo village waiting impatiently for the oil boom, to the exact location of the single test well which has evidently confirmed estimates and to the remote Yukon Valley village where Alaskan natives live on the caribou migration that environmentalists claim would be threatened by oil development operations.) As long as McCain has held the "No to ANWR" position, I have assumed he was playing to the left for reasons I could not fathom… until yesterday.

"I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears," McCain said, yesterday in Portland, Oregon speaking of the Kyoto Accords. "I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges."

Conservative radio erupted in anti-McCain anger yesterday and will continue to boil, because many conservatives believe environmentalists have put us in our present energy crisis and at least President Bush tried to push back.

For those who might dismiss the idea that McCain's slap at Bush was deliberate strategy, confirming information came in the form of a conference call yesterday in which reporters heard McCain's top policy aide, Doug Holtz-Eakin, say "John McCain's remarks today indicated the beginning of the end of the Bush administration's inaction on climate change."

John McCain has not morphed into Al Gore, but a global warming initiative from Senator McCain now makes the political wisdom of his earlier position clear. In an atmosphere which requires McCain to run away from Bush, appealing to enviros is doubtless the first of several we will see as the campaign unfolds.

Which raises the question: Rolling into the general election, who carries the heavier millstone, Obama with his Reverend Wright and his domestic terrorist pals, or McCain with a derided and vilified President Bush?

Considering the president's all-time low approval numbers, and the demonization campaign of the left, I wouldn't blame McCain for trying to lighten his load.

That's My Word.

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