President Bush was on message Wednesday in a Rose Garden news conference when he kept up the pressure on his drill, drill, drill offensive. He said he knows Americans are worried about gasoline prices, and said he wants them "to understand fully that we have got the opportunity to find more crude oil here at home in environmentally friendly ways." He specifically mentioned opening up ANWR, the outer continental shelf, and oil-shale exploration. He also took a whack at lawmakers, saying "the Democratically controlled Congress has refused to budge."
That's spot-on correct. But it has me wondering. Where in the world is John McCain on this very same issue? It's simple: Sen. McCain should be pummeling Barack Obama daily on drill, drill, drill. Why? Because oil and gas pump prices are potentially the single-biggest wedge issue in the presidential campaign. Mr. McCain has to pound the point home.
According to a new Rasmussen poll, 48 percent of Americans say lower gas prices are the key to an economic recovery, and 60 percent are in favor of off-shore drilling.
Here's another one. Rasmussen asked voters about the now-infamous Harry Reid YouTube video, where the senator says coal and oil are making us sick, and that fossil-fueled global warming is "ruining our country" and "ruining our world." Well, Rasmussen shows that 52 percent of voters reject Reid on coal; 50 percent disagree with him on oil; and 51 reject his idea that we need to stop using fossil fuels.
And all this is McCain's opportunity. He needs to hammer away on an America First energy policy that will completely deregulate and decontrol this nation's great energy industry. He needs to mothball his errant statements on "obscene oil profits." Instead, he needs to support and unleash all of our energy companies and entrepreneurs, allowing them to develop whatever it takes on oil, gas-to-liquid, clean coal, nuclear, offshore, onshore, oil shale, wind, solar, and biofuel.
America First should be the rallying cry. We have the natural resources to become the Saudi Arabia of coal and the Saudi Arabia of oil. Lift the moratoriums. Stop attacking our own businesses. Put technology to work. Put venture capital to work, with rock-bottom capital-gains and corporate tax rates. Stop being mau-maued by the extremist greenies who have prevented energy production for over three decades. America First. Unleash our free-enterprise energy sector: 2 trillion barrels worth of shale; 90 billion barrels of offshore oil; at least 10 billion barrels up in ANWR and more throughout Alaska, both onshore and off.
Politically, Sen. McCain must also understand how Hillary Clinton clobbered Barack Obama in the big state primaries: Blue-collar workers. They can be the key to victory for McCain. Guess who works in the energy business? Blue collar Reagan Democrats. They work on the rigs. They work in the fields. They drive the trucks. And they're paid high wages - substantially above the average hourly wage.
Or McCain can sell it this way: American workers are worried about jobs going offshore to India, China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. Well, a drill, drill, drill, America First energy plan would create millions of new domestic American jobs.
Of course, there's also a national security aspect to this. Worried about funding terrorist rogue states? Drill, drill, drill. A complete portfolio of oil energy sources in America - that's the answer.
And while he's at it, Sen. McCain should stop blaming "reckless traders." As soon as you say "end the drilling moratoriums," it is precisely those traders who will start selling oil contracts - long before the first offshore oil barrels are delivered to market. If they see presidential leadership on oil and shale drilling, they will rapidly turn a bull market into a bear market.
Sen. Obama is opposed to drilling. Opposed to nuclear. Opposed to coal. He and Harry Reid believe wind, solar, and ethanol are the answers. They're not. It's doubtful even at full development and commercialization that these alternative technologies will ever power more than 10 percent of our energy needs. We should go down this road as part of a full energy portfolio. But let's not kid ourselves: These sources alone will never be sufficient.
Sen. McCain has to make this case daily. He must contrast his America First energy plan with Obama's declinist American vision. He must argue America First for fuel, power, jobs, wages, and national security. He must enlist the Reagan Democrats who may be out of work and are surely angry at $4 gas at the pump and $140 a barrel oil in the world market.
Take a page from Ronald Reagan, Mr. McCain. Be optimistic about our future. Be clear, straightforward, and consistent. We can grow this economy and remain number one. This is how to do it.
Larry Kudlow, NRO's Economics Editor, is host of CNBC's Kudlow & Company and author of the daily web blog, Kudlow's Money Politic$.
By Larry Kudlow
Reprinted with permission from National Review Online