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McCain Controlling Debate on Energy

With a slew of policy proposals over the last week, Sen. John McCain has dominated recent media coverage of energy and environment issues. The Arizona senator’s strategy of staking out positions with broad appeal — like lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling to expand domestic oil and natural gas production and promoting the production of low-emissions vehicles and more efficient car batteries — has forced the Obama campaign into a reactive, defensive stance on issues that can be favorable to Democrats.

Of course, the debate is sure to continue on how effective McCain’s proposals are. His offshore drilling proposal has already been criticized for doing virtually nothing to achieve its stated goal: providing relief from skyrocketing gas prices. Furthermore, as The Washington Post noted in a recent article, the McCain campaign has been somewhat "schizophrenic" in its policy prescriptions. McCain is posturing himself as tough on climate change, while at the same time pushing an increase in domestic oil production that could likely be counterproductive in getting Americans to reduce their oil consumption.

Still, by holding the spotlight on these issues, the McCain campaign can portray itself as offering proactive solutions — flawed though they may be — while relegating Sen. Barack Obama to the back burner, where he can be attacked as only offering criticism without a plan. Obama has a host of ideas, though vague in some places, listed on his campaign Website.

If Obama wants to get out from under McCain’s shadow, he could refine some of these ideas into concrete proposals and do a better job explaining them. There is no reason the Republicans should be controlling the dialogue on energy and the environment.

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