Political Hay

Big Oil Democrats

They're in the pocket of those whose awful profits they condemn -- and make possible.

By 8.15.08

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Here is how you know Republicans are on the winning side of the oil drilling issue. It's not that two-thirds of the American people support offshore drilling. It's that the Democratic response has been to simply point at Republicans and shout, "Big Oil!"

Earlier this month, Sen. Barbara Boxer gave this genius explanation for high gas prices: "You want to know about my conclusion about $4 a gallon gas? Just divide eight years by two oilmen in the White House and you have your $4 a gallon."

Ah, that must be it. Of course, no one challenged Boxer on this nonsense. No one noted that oil prices did not skyrocket until the tail end of Bush's presidency, right at the time worldwide demand shot up. No one noted that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission concluded this summer that worldwide supply and demand had caused the rise in oil and gas prices.

Unchallenged, Boxer went on: "At the end of the day, you have two oil men in the White House and they represent Big Oil. The Republicans are doing the bidding of Big Oil."

ON MONDAY, Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- the third most powerful human being in America -- said oil companies "rule" Washington. She said they were in charge, that they controlled the White House's and Republicans' position on drilling. This is the woman who could have given the word at any time in the past eight months to vote on a comprehensive energy package that includes offshore drilling and all of the Democratic proposals, and she actually blamed the oil companies for our not having a vote. As she was speaking to Larry King, this of course went entirely unchallenged.

When Sen. John McCain came out for offshore drilling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said McCain's decision "represents another big giveaway to oil companies already making billions in profits."

He continued, "President Bush and John McCain are not serious about addressing gas prices. If they were, they would stop offering the same old ideas meant to pad the pockets of Big Oil and work with Democrats to reduce our dependence on oil, invest in the renewable energy sources, crack down on excessive speculation and stand up to countries colluding to shake down American consumers."

Barack Obama, Mr. End-Politics-As-Usual, has gone with the worst demagoguery, saying in his new ad this month, "After one president in the pocket of Big Oil, we can't afford another." The narrator says, "Every time you fill your tank, the oil companies fill their pockets. Now big oil is filling John McCain's campaign with $2 million in contributions."

Obama and his campaign staff have hit John McCain with an endless string of accusations that he is beholden to "Big Oil," which is exactly the kind of character assassination Obama has claimed for this entire campaign that he despises. Apparently, he finds it contemptible it only when it's directed at him.

THERE'S A PERFECTLY good reason Democrats keep using the term "Big Oil" instead of talking about the merits of offshore drilling. It's because offshore drilling is immensely popular, but "Big Oil" isn't. People are upset that they are paying so much and the oil companies are making record profits. By turning the debate away from the basic economics of the issue -- increasing supply to meet the increased demand, which Americans understand -- to the profits oil companies are making, the Democrats believe they can win an issue they currently are losing.

But Republicans have a golden opportunity here to turn the tables back on the Democrats. All they have to do is give a basic economics lesson every chance they get. The American people aren't stupid; they will get it. The lesson is this:

If the Democrats really wanted to cut the profits of Big Oil, they would vote to...increase the supply of oil! Oil company profits are so high because the price of oil is so high. The price is so high because demand is so much higher than supply. Allowing oil companies to drill for more oil will increase supply, which will lower prices, which will lower oil company profits!

Who is really in the pocket of Big Oil here -- the party whose policies would reduce oil company profits, or the party whose policies are keeping huge oil reserves confined underground, thus keeping oil companies rolling in record amounts of cash?

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About the Author

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.