Politics & Policy

Ganging Up on the Gang

It’s a familiar story: A promising kid gets in with the wrong crowd, ends up joining a gang, and wastes his life away in addiction and futility. In this case, the addiction is to expensive foreign oil and the gangsters are the Senate’s so-called Gang of 20, who are pushing a potentially disastrous energy package that amounts to near-complete capitulation to the anti-drilling, anti-energy crowd. The promising kid is John McCain. And the bad influence? His name is Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Senator Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a McCain insider, is a ringleader in the Gang of 20 (it used to be the Gang of 10, then they got ambitious), which is pushing a phony bipartisan “compromise” on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf — the vast offshore oil-and-gas reserves where drilling is currently verboten due to a congressional ban. Senate insiders worry that Graham is pushing a non-committal McCain to endorse the Gang’s work

The Gang’s compromise would create a permanent, statutory ban on energy production in practically all of the OCS, placing almost all of the petroleum found there beyond the reach of American drills. No drilling would be allowed in the oil-rich Pacific deposits. In exchange for this act of political submission, a relatively tiny sliver of the Gulf of Mexico would be opened up, and four states – Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas — would be given the option of approving new energy operations 50 miles or more off their coasts. Whether this option would ever be exercised is unclear — the gangsters are offering precious little financial incentive for the states to do so.

Its substantive failings aside, the Gang’s compromise would undercut the most effective domestic issue that Republicans have at the moment. Opposing it is the obvious move for McCain, but he’s not making it. Instead, he’s punting on this issue. Asked the candidate’s position on a high-profile bill that the Senate is going to take up imminently, a McCain spokesman refused to comment. If McCain were to endorse the deal, it’d be an extraordinary act of political fratricide. It would be, as one strategist involved in a tight Senate race told us, “a gut-punch to every Republican candidate in the country.”

McCain apparently doesn’t want to be put in the position of having to oppose something that is presented as a bipartisan compromise. Never mind that the compromise is a foolish one. If he comes out against the deal, of course, the commentariat will sneer that he is pandering to his base. But the most recent polls show nigh on 70 percent of Americans support drilling for oil here at home — 70 percent isn’t a partisan base, it’s an electorate. This is a Gang John McCain should want nothing to do with.

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