Lindsey Graham: For Cap and Trade, Except When He's Not

From the “Imagine if a Democrat did this” files – say, in the context of opposing President Obama’s effort to transform our health care insurance and delivery systems . It seems that a Republican Senator has been outed as hopping in the sack with an advocacy group from the other team, itself exposed as financing ads on his behalf in support of his abandoning what has become a marquee issue for his party.

Oh, and to top it off, his staff began by deceiving about it and end (for now) by telling a whopper in the struggle to avoid scrutiny over the mess.


That is, however, precisely what’s going on in the Palmetto State, at least according to this report about the latest twist in the long, strange saga of Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Without reciting the story ably summarized by a Gamecock writer, the whopper told in the scramble is this, offered by “Graham’s top South Carolina strategist, Richard Quinn” – as well as to others I have spoken to who have recently called the Senator’s office seeking to inquire about the oddity:

“‘Lindsey doesn’t support Cap & Trade and he will not support Cap & Trade,’ Quinn told us flatly.”

Except when he does.

You see, this is all about an op-ed in the New York Times which Sen. Graham penned in recent weeks (noted in this space at the time with bemusement if, I humbly submit, amusingly) with Sen. John Kerry touting bipartisanship on climate legislation. The problem with deathless opinion pieces is one tends to offer a lot of detail, or at least specific statements. One of them in this case is that he was, inescapably, pushing cap-and-trade:

“First, we agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change. We will minimize the impact on major emitters through a market-based system that will provide both flexibility and time for big polluters to come into compliance without hindering global competitiveness or driving more jobs overseas.”

Hmm. I’m just askin’, but which time is the senator’s office telling the truth or, alternately, is it the senator or his aide who is spreading the real story? If it isn’t cap-and-trade that he supports – and, after a dozen years on this issue, that’s the only thing even remotely meeting the above (oversold) description to which he affixed his name in our nation’s “Newspaper of Record” – then, ah, what is it precisely that he supports?

So far today his office is saying that what the senator means is that he supports a carbon cap that doesn’t cost businesses anything (even Obama’s OMB director Peter Orszag has admitted the axiomatic, that cap-and-trade would be passed on to consumers, but I’m not sure Team Graham is trying to be clever like that here). Still, OK. But as a student of the issue — you didn’t jump on board without learning about it first, right? — you do realize that doing that wouldn’t do anything? Businesses or households don’t drastically curtail energy use unless it’s really painful not to.

Here’s the issue, distilled. Sen. Graham sought to trade off his support for cap-and-trade for nominal support for offshore oil and gas exploration and support for nuclear power. The former is less than pressing given that Congress already bowed to public pressure and allowed the absurd moratorium to expire; the latter is a classic case of “waiter, the food was horrible, and there wasn’t enough of it” (the support is illusory in the absence of resolution of the waste disposal issue, and if done meaningfully is nonetheless merited, not something you plead for by offering to sell out support for cap-and-trade energy rationing).

In the process of trying to sell our energy future for a bag of magic beans, Sen. Graham discovered that the public’s feelings run much deeper on this matter than he assumed when relying upon longtime global warming crusader and cap-and-trader John McCain as his confidante and political guide star. Now, caught in flagrante Kyoto, he’s doubling down on the damning by (being charitable here) spinning wildly about his troubling position while not actually stepping forward to abandon what’s troubling about it. Because, plainly, he hasn’t abandoned it. He wants to finesse it. He wants to finesse the voters. This is at once the biggest tax increase and biggest regulatory intervention in the country’s history and the guy who sees a leader in the mirror can’t even bring himself to be straight with you about it.


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