Thursday, May 1, 2008

Money Laundering and Energy Policy

It's not often that I laugh at loud while reading the op-ed pages in the New York Times. It's even more rare when I'm reading about energy policy and a presidential campaign. But I have to admit that Thomas Friedman's latest column on the Clinton-McCain plan to suspend the gas tax made me laugh.

You really should read the thing yourself and I won't get into it that much here except to say that I agree with him and am glad that I back the candidate who also agrees. Also I want to share the brilliant line: "This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country."

Again, I'll leave the energy policy analysis to Mr. Friedman, but I do want to use the point as a launching pad for the current state of this campaign. Does anyone else think it's odd that just a week or so after saying that we need a Democratic candidate who'll stand up to John McCain, Hillary Clinton is siding with him on energy/fiscal policy? This is standing up?

Also, as Friedman and others have pointed out, this is not a good plan. It will barely even provide temporary relief, let alone address the underlying issues that will make this keep coming back again and again. McCain seems to be backing it because in his latest incarnation he doesn't seem to be able to find a tax cut he doesn't like. Clinton seems to be in favor because it helps her appear more blue collar and in touch with average Americans than Obama.

And now Obama has the opportunity to tell the American people the hard truths he keeps saying he's going to tell them. What better opportunity? Here is a plan that on the surface sure sounds like a good idea to anyone about to pay $60 to fill up a tank of gas. Now's the time to educate and explain why we have to look out for our long term interests on this. Now can be Obama's time to show what a leader he's willing to be.

McCain and Clinton (who really do seem to be on the same side now) will assail him for being out of touch and elitist. Now's the time to hit back by saying it's not elitist to be looking out for the best interests of the country and its people. Now's the time to hit back by saying that leaders should look to the common good, not pander to the whims of the moment.

Will it help him win votes? Maybe. But not a lot. But if this election really is to be about change and transforming American politics, this might be a good place to start.

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