How Serious is McCain About Cap&Trade?

Lawrence Kudlow who must be philosophically opposed to anything that makes sense including good public policy went giddy at the prospect that McCain had abandoned this proposal:

So I picked up the phone and dialed a senior McCain official to make sure these old eyes hadn’t missed it. Sure enough, on deep background, this senior McCain advisor told me I was correct: no cap-and-trade. In other words, this central-planning, regulatory, tax-and-spend disaster, which did not appear in Mac’s two recent speeches, has been eradicated entirely — even from the detailed policy document that hardly anybody will ever read. So then I asked this senior official if the campaign has taken cap-and-trade out behind the barn and shot it dead once and for all — buried it in history’s dustbin of bad ideas. The answer came back that they are interested in jobs right now — jobs for new energy production and jobs from lower taxes. At that point I became satisfied. Even though a McCain presidency might resurrect cap-and-trade, it will be a much different format. More important, the campaign is cognizant of the conservative rebellion against it.

Kevin Drum is smart enough not to trust anything that Kudlow writes and he recognizes that Kudlow is “crazy” but then Kevin adds:

McCain’s cap-and-trade plan was a watered down muddle to begin with, and it was obvious his heart was never in it. Still, it was an important part of his effort to seem moderate and bipartisan on energy and environmental issues, and a lot of people bought into it. So if Kudlow is right, it means that McCain is playing a pretty cynical game here: publicly taking credit for a “maverick” stand against his own party while quietly getting word out to the base that he isn’t serious about it. Pretty slick, Senator.

Marc Ambinder must have sources different from Kudlow’s:

Jill Hazelbaker, McCain’s communications director, calls the notion that McCain is abandoning or minimizing his support for cap-n-trade “totally false.” I think I can reconcile the two views: McCain’s talking about jobs this week, not cap-n-trade. When he talks about energy — as he did two weeks ago, he talks about cap-n-trade. Kudlow considers cap-n-trade to be a critical (and negative) part of McCain’s economic policy; McCain considers it part of his energy policy; in campaigns, these type of issues tend to sort themselves into silos, reasonably, and so it ought not surprise anyone that McCain’s focus on jobs and taxes doesn’t tilt too far into energy policy precincts.

And now Kudlow must have gotten the message from the McCain camp to soft pedal the fact that McCain is flip-flopping again:

Well, as far as abandoning, that’s not what I said. I wrote that a McCain presidency might resurrect cap-and-trade, although it will be a much different format. But the key point is that several campaign advisors told me that the issue now is jobs and the economy, and of course $4 gas at the pump and $140 oil in the world market. Since cap-and-trade would not only establish the biggest government regulatory plan in history, and also would substantially raise gas and other fuel prices, the idea is a loser right now as every opinion-poll survey clearly shows. Hence, the senator is being smart to move away from cap-and-trade and instead support drill, drill, drill for more energy supplies to reduce gas prices, as well as tax-cut plans to spur economic growth and jobs. Mr. McCain is also correct to link drill, drill, drill with new energy-related job creation. In my formulation of this, nuclear power and clean coal are part of drill, drill, drill, as are natural gas and even alternative fuels. Last night former-Sen. Phil Gramm, who is ostensibly McCain’s most senior economic advisor, said as much on our program. So while Ms. Hazelbaker may say that minimizing cap-and-trade support is totally false, she is engaging in a certain degree of cognitive dissonance on this subject. And let me note that the intent of my piece yesterday was to praise Mr. McCain on this topic, not to bury him.

Leave it to Lawrence Kudlow to praise a Republican for talking out of both sides of his mouth!