I agree that by itself ANWR is not the stuff presidential elections turns on. But widen the lens a little bit and look at energy policy as a whole. A candidate who wanted to allow drilling in ANWR and other restricted areas and opposed increasing energy prices to fight global warming would have, all else equal, a political advantage over a candidate who opposed drilling and supported cap-and-trade. That's what is driving the frustration on the Right with McCain right now, and the political judgment that underlies that frustration seems to me to be correct: He is missing a good opportunity.
Point taken. But McCain's embrace of cap-and-trade didn't happen in a vacuum: It was an attempt, albeit a misguided one, to break with the heads-in-the-sand approach to energy and climate change that far too many conservatives have been taking for far too long. And the right-wing zeal for drilling in ANWR has been part of the problem, not part of the solution: It's licensed conservatives to posture about energy independence while sidestepping the global-warming debate entirely. If the argument for drilling in ANWR were embedded in a broader Jim Manzi-meets-Shellenberger-and-Nordhaus approach to the dual imperatives of cheaper and cleaner energy, then I'd be all for it. But for the most part, that isn't how it's being framed. It's just "drill here, drill now, pay less," full stop. Which is bad policy and bad politics.
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