John McCain is reputed to be a straight talker. And it’s true that McCain is often blunt (i.e., aggressive) in the way he expresses his opinions. If that’s what people mean by “straight talker”, the label is accurate.
But with respect to policy positions, there’s some evidence that McCain is more of a shape-shifter than a straight talker. Here’s the latest example, neatly illustrated by CNN:
- McCain used to be open to a windfall profits tax on oil companies; but now he is mocking Obama for supporting such a tax; and
- McCain used to support an existing, federal ban on offshore drilling; but now he says the ban should be lifted.
These policy shifts are important, because McCain wants Americans to believe that he’s serious about tackling climate change. But if McCain’s policy is to provide a supply of (relatively) cheap oil, people will have less incentive to change their carbon-emitting ways.
What does Obama mean by “windfall profits”? Consider that the five largest oil companies realized a $36 billion profit in the first quarter of this year. Obama proposes,
I’ll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we’ll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills.
McCain is now on record as opposing that policy. It isn’t surprising that he mocked Obama in Texas, which is the home of big oil.
On another environmental front, Obama and McCain have both expressed support for a cap-and-trade system:
A central authority (usually a government or international body) sets a limit or cap on the amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. … Companies that need to increase their emissions must buy credits from those who pollute less. The transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade.
I believe in the cap-and-trade system, as you know. I would not at this time make those — impose a mandatory cap at this time.
The same article makes it clear that McCain has equivocated on this point previously:
It’s not quote mandatory caps. It’s cap-and-trade, OK. It’s not mandatory caps to start with. It’s cap-and-trade. That’s very different. OK, because that’s a gradual reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. So please portray it as cap-and-trade. That’s the way I call it.
Confused? I am. McCain is not such a straight talker when it comes to his environmental policy.