Drum asked, “Wouldn't he be better off holding this stuff in reserve and negotiating it away in return for actual support, not just hoped-for support?”
This was certainly my initial reaction to the “giveaway”. But it is a better tactic to lead with the giveaways for nuclear power and offshore drilling. When Republicans inevitably come back thumbing their noses at reasonable compromises, Obama can say, “I suggested [these actions]. These were not in response to some backroom deal I hoped to make. I have taken a comprehensive strategy towards energy procurement and security” ... and therefore completely own the high road on the climate bill. In fact, he’s already made Boehner look like an intransigent tool.
To me, Drum sounds EXACTLY like what folks were saying about Obama's early health care position. "I didn't work my ass off on the campaign to have Obama race to the middle!" "If we start in the middle, we have nowhere to go but Right!" But, like you frequently point out, Obama is playing the long game.
Of course the GOP isn't going to roll out press releases praising Obama's new energy plan. When gas prices shoot up this summer (like they always do), an easy GOP refrain would have been "Drill Baby, Drill! Obama hates consumers and loves high gas prices, that's why he isn't drilling!" But the President just took away "Drill Baby, Drill," enacting something that most Americans probably feel is a common sense way to lower gas prices, and showed independents that he's willing to stand up to his own party and sensibly govern from the middle.
This isn't a ploy to win a few votes in the Senate. It's proactive politics, reasonable governance, and could actually help us move toward energy independence.
This lift on the ban is window dressing. Obama and Salazar are talking about studying the possibility of maybe extracting oil. Then there's local politics. Florida, for example, has its own ban in place. The Florida house voted to repeal the ban, but it still has to get through the state senate. The three gubernatorial candidates, including two from the GOP, are opposed to lifting the ban. Republican Bill McCollum says it would "just completely terrorize our beaches." That's the same Bill McCollum who's leading the challenge to the constitutionality of ACA's individual mandate, so we're not talking about crunchy granola Greenpeace types here.
Obama diffuses a talking point. Boehner's already saying it doesn't go far enough. Maybe so, but it's difficult to paint Obama as some kind of crazed ideologue when he implements a plan that may one day lead to offshore drilling. So the GOP paints itself into a corner, Obama and Democrats get 60 votes on energy/carbon policy. Sound familiar?
Wash. Meep. Repeat.