The historically high price of gasoline – and political pressure to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT – has drawn a distinct difference between the Democratic challengers while blurring the difference between Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
This afternoon MSNBC played a couple of dueling sound bites:
Clinton is shown on the campaign trail trumpeting a populist message. "At the heart of my approach is a simple belief. Middle class families are paying too much and oil companies aren't paying their fair share to help us solve the problems at the pump."
Barack responds, "We're arguing over a gimmick to save you half a tank of gas over the course of the entire summer so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say that they did something. Well, let me tell you something: This isn't an idea designed to get you through the summer. It's an idea designed to get them to an election." (emphasis mine)
Once again, we've got someone speaking the truth – even though it isn't a political winner in the short-term. His opponent, on the other hand, has chosen one of the golden oldies of presidential politics, "the Populist Pander." In doing so, Hillary has embraced an ill-advised, Republican-inspired proposal and sacrificed bedrock Democratic ideals all for the sake of Hoosier and Tar Heel votes.
Never mind that her plan echoes much of McCain's "gas tax holiday." It may never come to fruition because it requires the unlikely passage of a new tax on oil company windfall profits (try getting that through the 60 seat cloture vote, Hils). Also ignore the fact it represents a complete reversal of the fundamental New Deal philosophy that public works spending jumpstarts a sputtering economy (the plan could put hundreds of thousands of highway workers out of work). None of that is Hillary's cardinal sin.
Well then, what is?
In her analysis of Clinton's proposal, Republican pollster Kellyann Conway provides the answer
"In fact, some her words today sounded exactly like John McCain's gas tax holiday proposal from just a couple of weeks ago. So, I think right now they're playing to two different audiences. Perhaps Senator Clinton is feeling quite bold given all of her new poll numbers and the fact that this has become a tightened race. But I think what is really key in the whole discussion about a tax gas holiday is this: that, instead of just talking about the oil companies, instead of just talking about the price of gas, people will become that much more aware across this country that the federal government benefits tremendously from taxes on gasoline. And that's meant to go to repair our roads and our bridges. And everybody knows that our bridge and road repair are, they are in disrepair. So, I think it's important that we starve the beast – the federal, state and local governments – who rely upon taxes at the pump while people are trying to fill up the tank just to get around to their jobs and schools."
Way, to go, Hills. You've provided the Republican spinmeisters an opportunity to promote neoconservative Grover Norquist's governing philosophy goal to "shrink government to a size you can drown in the bathtub." No wonder the Republicans are so delighted to see your candidacy continue.
Triangulation Triumphant? Is that what a Clinton restoration will mean?
But, thankfully, we have a candidate who refuses to pander. Listen to him, folks:
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal discusses how the Clinton/McCain "holiday" would actually raise prices by increasing demand. It's time we elected politicians who talk honestly about the difficult times ahead.