Monday, October 04, 2010

Senator Lindsey Graham: The Betrayer, Betrayed?

Great piece in the New Yorker (!) on how Cap & Trade legislation did not come to be (praise God). South Carolina's Lindsey Graham took the lead on the Republican side in trying to create a "bi-partisan" climate change bill (with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman), which, regardless of the form, would have fundamentally altered the state of our economy and increased government involvement in our day-to-day decision making by an order of magnitudes. And we know how that works out....

Actually, there are two betrayals here. The first is by Lindsey Graham, who, as a representative of the people of South Carolina to the United States Senate, made backroom deals with lobbyists, corporations, and Democrats while attempting a "news blackout" so his constituents would be unaware of what he was actively working to do to them...

...back in Washington, Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill “before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process,” one of the people involved in the negotiations said. “He would say, ‘The second they focus on us, it’s gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it’s gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible.’ ”

The second theory about how to win Republicans’ support was to go straight to their industry backers...The Chamber (of Commerce) was allowed to write the language of its top "ask" into the bill. It turned out that working with Washington interest groups was far simpler than dealing with Republican senators navigating a populist conservative uprising.

...Three weeks later, Kerry and some aides were in his office discussing the progress of their bill. Someone mentioned T. Boone Pickens, the author of the so-called Pickens Plan, an energy-independence proposal centered on enormous government subsidies for natural gas...sold by a Pickens-controlled corporation at some two hundred natural-gas fuelling stations across North America...
Pickens...had just one request: include in the climate legislation parts of a bill that Pickens had written, called the Natural Gas Act, a series of tax incentives to encourage the use of natural-gas vehicles and the installation of natural-gas fuelling stations. In exchange, Pickens would publicly endorse the bill.

Three major oil refiners—Shell, B.P., and ConocoPhillips—proposed that they pay a fee based on the total number of gallons of gasoline they sold linked to the average price of carbon over the previous three months. The oil companies called the idea “a linked fee.”....The environmental community and the White House, which rarely weighed in on its policy preferences, thought the linked fee was disastrous because it would inevitably be labelled a “gas tax.”...The senators proposed a deal: the oil companies would get the policy they desired if they agreed to a ceasefire. According to someone present, Kerry told his colleagues at the March meeting, “Shell, B.P., and Conoco are going to need to silence the rest of the industry.”

Ugly. So the second betrayal - that of Barack Obama leaving his erstwhile Republican partner
out to dry, under the bus - has a sense of karmic justice to it as well:

...She clicked on “WH Opposes Higher Gas Taxes Floated by S.C. GOP Sen. Graham in Emerging Senate Energy Bill.” The White House double-crossed us, she thought. The report cited “senior administration sources” and said that the “Obama White House opposes a move in the Senate, led by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, to raise federal gasoline taxes within still-developing legislation to reduce green house gas emissions.” Including two updates to his original story, Garrett used the word “tax” thirty-four times.

Graham was “screaming profanities,” one of the K.G.L. staffers said. In addition to climate change, he was working with Democrats on immigration and on resolving the status of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. He was one of only nine Republicans to vote for Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Now Obama aides were accusing him of backing a gas tax, which wasn’t his idea and wasn’t even in the draft bill. Worst of all, the leakers went to Fox News, a move which they knew would cause Graham the most damage.

Graham quit the Cap & Trade "gang", but that hasn't mattered much to his constituents. Like a wife who has caught her husband in bed with another woman, his quick leap to pull up his pants and his promise to never do it again cannot erase the memory of his treason. Graham is not up for re-election until 2014; otherwise he would have found himself sitting next to Arlen Specter and other opportunistic parasites of the public. He is tarnished, and in an age where conservative orthodoxy is ruling the roost, he will be a man much less empowered in the new Senate, regardless of who controls it.

And Obama? Was he intentionally trying to torpedo climate change legislation, or just trying to torpedo Lindsey Graham? Was Graham so naive as to believe the president's patented nonsense about bi-partisanship? Did Obama feel confident he could pass the bill without Graham - on a party-line basis as he did in the House - and so tried to paint the Republican proposal as "extreme", and his own as "moderate"?

Well, I suppose we may never know, as the machinations of the liberal mind are an enigma to those looking for liner reasoning and common sense. But Graham, the betrayer himself betrayed, had better re-learn the lessons of The Scorpion and the Frog, if he expects to survive in Washington much longer...

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