Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gas guzzler politics II

Egad! Stop presses! A genuine difference has arisen between Clinton and Obama. Clinton favors suspending the federal gas tax by 18.4 cents per gallon for the summer, as does McCain. Obama opposes it.

According to the New York Times, Clinton seeks a windfall-profits tax on oil companies to replace the revenue (how will she prevent the vertically integrated companies from passing the charges on to consumers?). Obama opposes the gas-tax reduction as a temporary fix that will take needed funds from the nation's highways.

Europe, where gas prices are astronomical, must be chuckling at this debate. In any case, the squabble shows up the political difficulties ahead for America's climate-change legislation, which would, in theory at least, boost energy costs at a time when people are already hurting.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Better than a debate

Memo to Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and all the other Democratic big shots:

Things are getting bad, aren’t they? Your dream duo is disintegrating into bickering over who thinks the American people are bitter, who did or didn’t get shot at by Bosnian snipers, who wears flag-pin lapels, and other urgent matters. Voters are sick of it, and John McCain is getting a free (if little-noticed) ride.

Here is a possible solution, put forward by a friend of Polprint:

Rather than (or in addition to) another debate, he argues, why not have Obama and Clinton appear together to promote the Democratic platform and attack McCain?

Clinton could go first on, say, the economy (help Americans! Stop the mortgage crisis!). Obama could follow with foreign policy (bring the troops home!). Then Clinton on health-care, Obama on education, Clinton on environment, Obama on immigration, and so on. The statements would only include points that the two of them agree on (which is plenty).

That would serve three purposes: stopping the Democratic mud-slinging, at least for a day; showing Democratic party unity—reminding voters, before it is too late, that whoever wins the nomination will have the loser’s full support; and shifting the emphasis to Democrats’ differences with McCain.

Where this idea falters, plainly, is feasibility. Clinton and Obama do not care for each other, to say the least. They would probably rather search out real sniper fire than share a platform. But Mr. Dean and Ms. Pelosi, that is what heavyweights are for—to think creatively, and for the good of the Party. Polprint's friend believes it might just an idea be worth broaching.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gas guzzler politics

Isn’t it time for an honest discussion about gas prices and climate change?

During the Pennsylvania debate, the ABC moderators—in one of their rare, less-foolish questions—asked what America was going to do about gas at $4 a gallon.

Clinton immediately cited price gouging by oil companies, and Obama followed up on the theme. He added, correctly, that over the long-term we need to reduce demand for gas by increasing fuel-economy standards, and this lowered demand will reduce prices.

But the paradox that no candidate wants to face up to is that, in the short run, high gas prices are actually part of the solution to another urgent issue: climate change. All three remaining candidates have serious proposals to cap carbon-dioxide emissions, and those trade emission rights.

What would be the proper effect of comprehensive carbon-capping legislation (and the devil is admittedly in the details)? Even higher gas prices in the short term! Try making this connection, however, and those voters who cling to their pick-up trucks—a huge chunk of America, in other words--will get bitter.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Colbert politics

Polprint is squarely of the generation that gets its news from Comedy Central (the Daily Show, the Colbert Report). Well, she has a few other sources too. But it was fairly impressive that Stephen Colbert snagged Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama for cameos in the same half-hour.

Clinton's was the strangest--she appeared briefly to "fix" a technological glitch that Colbert was having. But then she didn't linger for questions...odd. Edwards, with his "haircare" (not healthcare) obsession, was hilarious, and Obama bantered acceptably.

But the truly bizarre spots were the commercials. Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich appeared together, and Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson shared a couch. The sponsoring organization was the "Alliance for Climate Protection." Rather effective images, though they might need a sharper message than the fuzzy "save our planet now".

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The road well-traveled

According to the Washington Post, Montana was the 48th state Obama has visited. The final two holdouts are South Dakota and Alaska. South Dakota is sure to get its moment in the Obama strobe, since its primary is on June 3rd (the last of all the states, along with Montana).

Alaska is more problematic. Polprint attempted to go there last summer, but was turned away when she was unable to produce a passport. She eventually made it; apparently if your plane stops in Canada, passports are necessary.

Alaska was the bane of Richard Nixon, too. When contesting Kennedy in 1960, Nixon vowed to campaign in all 50 states. A few days before the general election, he was forced to fly to Alaska--wasting valuable hours, of course--to remain a man of his word. This is recounted in Theodore White's The Making of the President 1960.

Current candidates seem unlikely to make similar promises. That said, being able to claim that one had campaigned in all 50 states would provide a certain cache.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


So Mark Penn is gone, after his peculiar efforts to juggle working for his lobbying firm with serving as Clinton's chief strategist. (Was the latter job not time-consuming enough?) The final straw was his meeting last Monday--in his lobbyist capacity--with Colombia's ambassador to the US, about efforts to pass the Colombia-US free trade agreement. Clinton opposes the treaty.

One of the great mysteries is not simply why Penn decided to take the meeting last week, but why Colombia hired Penn's firm last year in the first place. Surely Colombia was cognizant of Clinton's position, and Penn's relationship with her. Very strange.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bring back Mike Huckabee!

The Huckster was campaigning to abolish the IRS. Polprint, in the throes of 1040 hell, is thinking that's a sound idea...