Throughout July it had become apparent that energy would become a dominant issue in the upcoming election. With prices at the pump topping $4 a gallon and inflation showing a surge, Americans demanded action and instead got nothing. In mid-July the President did respond to public outcry by lifting the long-standing Executive Moratorium on offshore drilling. The results of his action followed by a Federal Reserve warning the next day caused oil prices to drop by over 10% in the following days. Prior to the President's lifting of the moratorium Oil prices were on a steady rise, but since the President lifted the moratorium oil prices had dropped for 4 straight weeks.
I am positive that the President's actions in July had 2 purposes: To put additional pressure on Congress to actually accomplish something and to demonstrate to the public how a small action, accompanied by the threat of real action will cause oil futures to fall. Bush's lifting of the moratorium in July had a positive effect and was a positive move for his administration. Yet, August would represent a failure of President Bush to maintain pressure upon congress and help demonstrate the failure of congressional leadership.
For the past 2 months I have attacked Congressional leaders for their utter failure in nearly every policy category during the past two years. This 'do nothing' congress who will criticize the Iraqi Parliament for going on vacation while failing to accomplish the work of their own people has taken the same action here in the US. But today it is President Bush's turn. Bush had a golden opportunity at the beginning of August to publicize this nation's energy problems and highlight the failures of Congress. As House Republicans revolted on the floor of Congress, Nancy Pelosi travelled the nation in her quest to sell 5,000 books. The President had the constitutional power to recall Congress for a special session to address energy legislation, but the President failed to act.
There were many, primarily Conservatives, who felt that the President should not recall congress so that energy would remain an issue into the fall election. Yet, the fact is that should Bush have recalled Congress, the session would have been short and Pelosi and Reid would have used parliamentary procedures to block Republican legislation and resume their vacation. Nothing would have been accomplished, yet it would have kept the Energy debate at the forefront of this election. By not pressuring Congress, Energy debate has essentially disappeared from the news cycle. It is true that Russia's Invasion of Georgia is partially responsible, but even those events have faded from the MSM. Instead the Presidential debate has turned back to economic and social issues brought forward by Saddleback.
There were also many who opposed a recall by the President due to the fact that he would be able to make temporary judicial appointments while congress was on recess. Those judicial appointments, most of which have been stonewalled for years by our current Congressional leaders would be able to freely serve until the beginning of the next Congressional term. Yet, for the second year in a row, Senator Reid had a local Democrat arrive in the Senate every three days to open the Senate and immediately hammer the gavel to end debate. The result is that the Senate has never officially adjourned, thus blocking any "recess appointments" by the President.
With those two arguments gone, the President should have recalled Congress and exposed the true obstructionist nature of our Congressional Leaders once again. Instead, he did nothing, the Energy debate has taken second stage, and even last week as inflation dramatically jumped once again due to oil prices the main-stream media ignored the story. The media has somewhat successfully portrayed the high prices of oil as a "bubble" within the markets, yet the fundamentals of the energy markets have not changed. There has been no increase in supply and no long term shift in global demands. This coming month, Chinese consumption which was strictly limited prior too and during the Olympic games will drastically increase as manufacturing and travel revs back up. In the US, oil supplies are still threatened by the Hurricane season and as temperatures cool, refining abilities will come under pressure as refiners make the switch over to fall and winter blends.
Bush had the opportunity to expose the ridiculous obstructionism of congressional leaders and he failed. The Russian invasion and continued occupation of Georgia, which has threatened the oil supply to much of Europe, gave the administration the opportunity to highlight the danger in Obama, Pelosi, and Reid's call to tap the Strategic Oil Reserves, yet he also failed to make the case. With the start of the conventions it is too late for the President to take action, as a recall now would portrayed in the media as purely political.
Bush made the right moves in July, but utterly failed in his follow-thru. The Republicans including McCain must find a way to bring Energy back to the fore-front and not allow Congressional leaders or Obama to turn this election into a debate on Social issues. It is unfortunate that the Bush administration which was given a political gift at the end of July chose to take a non-confrontational, status-quo path in which pressure upon Obama and Congressional Leadership was let up. The Democratic Leadership has one goal on oil, to stall the issue to a point that the public begins to take a defeatist attitude that there is nothing we can do about prices thus becoming complacent in our calls for effective 'do it all' energy policy.
August 25th, 2008
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