Bush’s Opportunism

You have to hand it to him: Bush never lets an opportunity to push his agenda slip by without taking full advantage of it. Last week’s blackout is now apparently a good reason to allow drilling in Alaska. Over the last couple of days Bush has been saying that the blackout proves that his energy bill, which has been stalled in Congress since he started pushing it in May 2001, is urgently needed.

What Bush fails to draw attention to is the fact his energy bill is a collection of numerous provisions to increase subsidies to oil companies (estimates are that such subsidies will total about $30 billion per year) and allow drilling in ANWR, with a bit of electricity grid modernization thrown in almost as an afterthought. But of course, that afterthought is now the reason that the whole thing — subsidies and ANWR included — should be passed.

Bush also fails to mention that Democrats have been trying for two years to get a separate electricity grid modernization bill passed, to no avail, as noted in this CNN story:

Democrats went on the offensive after last week’s massive power outage, condemning the administration’s refusal to allow the bill to go forward without several controversial measures, including the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

“This issue has been held hostage to the Republican agenda of trying to drill in the most pristine wilderness, environmentally sensitive areas of the country,” Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, said Sunday on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. “We could have broken this issue off three years ago, five years ago. But they refused to allow it to move as a separate piece of legislation.”

Administration officials countered that Democrats were holding up the bill by insisting on a less than comprehensive bill.

Does this remind anyone else of 2001? In the spring of 2001, Bush’s energy bill had to be passed immediately because of California’s energy crisis. But when California’s crisis petered out by summer of 2001… the energy bill had to be passed immediately because the price of oil rose to $30 per barrel. When the price of oil fell again… the energy bill had to be passed immediately to strengthen our national security in the wake of 9/11.

Actually, Bush used a similar tactic with tax cuts. In early 2001 they were needed to return the surplus to Americans. By mid-2001 they were needed to stimulate the economy. (But wait, 90% of his proposed tax cut was destined for 5 to 10 years from now…) By 2002 more tax cuts were needed to show the terrorists that they can’t win. By early 2003 they were needed to end inefficient double-taxation. By mid 2003 they were needed to stimulate the economy (again).

Anyone else sense a pattern?