Good Advice

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As sometimes happens when I read Marc Ambinder's blog, today I'm puzzled by the mentality of the campaign reporter:

While we've been focusing on the race card, the Republican echo chamber has been sounding full tilt about Barack Obama's Jimmy Carter-esque turn as advice columnist to Americans about energy. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity spent part of their broadcast mocking Obama for urging Americans to inflate their tires to help conserve gasoline.

Obama had a point, and the auto industry recommends the same thing as do governors Schwarzenegger and Crist, but nevermind; the ridicule fix is in. An effective GOP shot.

Here's my understanding of the sequence of events. Gas prices are on the rise. Consumers are feeling pain, harm is being done to the economy. Oil companies begin posting record profits. John McCain and the GOP propose a series of giveaways to oil companies that economists doubt will do anything to reduce gasoline prices in the short run. These measures will, however, starve the government of revenue for infrastructure, harm the environment, and devastate coastal economies. Barack Obama counters with a tip that will do no harm to the economy or the public purse but will allow people to save money in the short, medium, and long runs. Obama's proposal is endorsed by the auto industry as sound (similarly, fully inflated bike tires make you go faster), and has been embraced by the most successful politicians in the Republican Party today. But Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity mock it along with the rest of the "Republican echo chamber."

The upshot is deemed to be . . . success for the echo chamber, "an effective GOP shot." But why? Maybe the attack will be reported in a way that's helpful to Republicans. But why should it be reported that way? Why should slamming Obama for offering sound, bipartisan, industry-endorsed advice by an effective attack?

Photo by Flickr user Eric Castro used under a Creative Commons license

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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