Many of his supporters have been recommending that Barack Obama focus most of his attention on John McCain, arguing that further exchanges with Hillary Clinton lend credence to her dubious claim of still having a path to the nomination. The fact that both McCain and Clinton have now backed the same demonstrably insane summer gasoline tax holiday provides a perfect opportunity for Obama to take aim at McCain in a way that will also limit Clinton’s ability to profit from her proposal.
For reasons that Mark and Michael have clearly laid out in earlier posts, the McCain-Clinton proposal is a classic political pander — a proposal that sounds good to low-information voters, but whose effect would be to exacerbate the very problem it purports to solve. Obama, to his credit, has denounced the proposal. But in the furor over Jeremiah Wright, his response received little attention. In the meantime, Clinton’s ads touting her support for the tax holiday are probably winning votes. After all, that’s why politicians pander in the first place.
But this combination of events provides Obama with a golden opportunity to turn the issue to his advantage. He can do this by scheduling a high-profile public speech whose announced purpose is to explain why McCain’s gas tax holiday is a such bad idea. The arguments are simple and persuasive. If Obama cannot make them seem compelling, he is not the brilliant orator we all believe him to be. This speech would challenge McCain’s perceived strength as a straight-talker, because the proposal is the polar opposite of straight talk. After explaining why, Obama should challenge members of the press to find a single reputable energy expert or economist who believes otherwise. There aren’t any.