Barack Obama got stung by a challenge from a Las Vegas reporter on his energy policy, and specifically on his efforts to paint John McCain as a lackey of Dick Cheney. Jon Ralston asked Obama about the contradiction inherent in this strategy — the fact that Obama voted for Cheney’s energy bill in 2005 while McCain voted against it. Obama stammered out an accusation that Ralston was a proxy for McCain:
RALSTON: I guess what the American people want to know though Senator, is what is the real difference between you and John McCain. You are running this ad tying him to the industry saying that he has taken all of these contributions, but as you well know there is a story out today about how you supported the Dick Cheney bill and he opposed it. That bill gave subsidies to the oil and gas companies, John McCain opposed the bill saying those are tax breaks for those companies, Barack Obama favored it.
SEN. OBAMA: Hold on a second Jon, I thought I was talking to you instead of debating John McCain, but I am happy to let you serve as his proxy. The fact of the matter is that I supported that energy bill saying at the time that those tax breaks were wrong but also recognizing that this was the largest investment in alternative energy in history. And that it was important for us, for the solar industry to get off the ground in places like Nevada, for to get wind kicked off the ground, that that was something that we had to do and I immediately said during that time and subsequently that we should strip out those tax breaks for oil companies. I would point out that in December of last year, we had a vote to strip out those tax breaks for oil companies, there was one Senator that did not vote on that measure, and that was John McCain.
“Serve as his proxy”? Time was, reporters were paid to ask candidates tough questions. Ralston’s question is entirely legitimate, especially since Obama and the Democrats made Cheney’s energy policy a campaign issue in the first place. If Obama dislikes it so much, why did he vote for it — and why blame it on the one candidate in the race that actually voted against it?
In the rest of the interview, Ralston presses Obama on his policy reversals and asks him how voters can trust him not to shift again for political reasons. In Nevada, the proposed nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain remains a highly controversial topic, and Ralston wonders aloud when Obama will change his mind and support it — a killer for him in Nevada. Obama gets offended at the suggestion:
SEN. OBAMA: John, don’t put words in my mouth or anticipate what I am going to do. I’ve been opposed to Yucca Mountain from the start so if the suggestion is that John McCain who is in favor of Yucca right now should get a pass on that.
He was opposed to telecom immunity at the start, supported public financing at the start, thought the surge would create more violence at the start, and so on, and so on. “Don’t anticipate what I am going to do?” No one can anticipate what he will do — that’s the problem.
Jen Rubin says that the Obamessiah has apparently added another commandment: Thou Shalt Ask No Tough Questions of The One. I’d add, Thou Shalt Not Anticipate My Actions Based On My Statements.