How the Issue of OCS Drilling is Covered by MSNBC

10 August 2008

As I have repeatedly pointed out, and as the Department of Energy itself has said, drilling on the protected areas of the OCS would have an "insignificant" impact on the globally-set price of oil, and drilling in ANWR would save only two cents per gallon ($0.75/barrel) a generation from now. Yet John McCain (R-AZ) has put this issue front-and-center, and the awful "journalists" at CNN, MSNBC and FOX News have been all too happy to make this the central issue of the very real and very serious energy policy questions we face today.

During last week's Race for the White House on MSNBC (an awful show that always talks campaign strategy and hardly ever talks actual substance), Rachel Madow pointed out that OCS drilling in the protected region "would really have no impact on gas prices for . . . a generation," and that it was silly (or "brilliant politics" with "no basis in reality," as she put it) for this to be a central issue of the campaign. She failed to add that the "impact" we see in a generation would be "insignificant," as the Department of Energy put it.

However, rather than talk about the reality of the issue and Madow's central point (a good one), host David Gregory and his panel ratcheted up the stupidity, feebly talking about "flip-flopping" and letting this exchange fly:

HARWOOD (continuing directly from Maddow, above): David, let’s not forget, if we’re talking about a flip-flop, John McCain flip-flopped on this same issue. He just did it before Barack Obama did.


GREGORY: Pat, final comment.

BUCHANAN: David, I’ve got to step in here because Rachel has really finally nailed one cold. Look, we’ve got $4 a gallon gasoline, $150 a barrel oil, and the Republicans are blaming Barack Obama for it, and they are succeeding with the issue and forcing him to change. That is a winner. Astonishingly good politics, a rarity for the Republicans lately.

GREGORY: Yes. All right. We’re going to take a break here. Coming up, Paris Hilton’s mom is chastising John McCain for his new attack ad featuring her daughter. Plus, what McCain’s 96-year-old mother has to say about that celeb video.

The transition here really sums it up. No wonder the press only has a 10% approval rating.

This is quite simply a lie, which McCain and the GOP has repeated over and over again. Yet all our journalists can do is praise it as "brilliant" and "astonishingly good politics." Where is the outrage? How out of touch are these people?

Princeton Economist Paul Krugman framed the issue much better in his August 8, 2008 column in the New York Times:

KRUGMAN (8/8/08): So the G.O.P. has found its issue for the 2008 election. For the next three months the party plans to keep chanting: “Drill here! Drill now! Drill here! Drill now! Four legs good, two legs bad!” O.K., I added that last part.

And the debate on energy policy has helped me find the words for something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Republicans, once hailed as the “party of ideas,” have become the party of stupid.

Sometimes the two parties have honest disagreements about policy matters. But in this case (over-generalizations aside), you have to call a spade a spade. It is absolutely dishonest, and it's only "good politics" as long as people like David Gregory let them get away with it.

UPDATE: Here is another clip from MSNBC. In it, Frank Donatelli continuously calls for more offshore drilling in the protected OCS areas (as if it would reduce the price of gas or reduce our dependence on foreign oil). Andrea Mitchell, unfortunately, never goes directly after the premise of his argument. Once again, a GOP politician has gotten away with spreading misleading talking points on this issue.

Frank Donatelli, by the way, also lobbied on behalf of Exxon.

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