The Obama administration has been given a respite from the GSA scandal, only because the criminal investigation of the matter has a quiet fuse but eventually a louder bang. And, the Secret Service scandal is only settling down while there is a transition to investigating other trips. The Obama campaign was hoping to enjoy the pause from these distractions, and they had probably peaked for the time being, even if they are destined to return.
But just when the administration thought the worst was over, the truth about President Obama's approach to energy development burst out of the EPA.
EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz confirmed what everyone has already known but lacked a bloody shirt to wave. He confirmed that the EPA philosophy is to “Crucify ... and make examples of oil and gas companies” just for the purpose of intimidation. It's fair to say the purpose of this intimidation is to discourage oil and gas companies from doing more of what they do. Finally, someone in this administration admits to being adversarial to American companies that are trying to ensure that American consumers (voters) have cheap, plentiful energy that includes oil and gas. It isn't what Obama wants, and it isn't what his EPA was instructed to encourage.
Mr. Armendariz made the mistake of exercising candor in front of a camera. This diminishes the possibility of a deceptive denial, it turbocharges the scandal, and it helps develop the story on several fronts. There will be more news coverage and major congressional investigations (we will all be reading Mr. Armendariz’s e-mails soon), and there will be lawsuits filed by his victims that will force more revelations on this topic in the weeks and months ahead. Not to mention, the Republican fundraising direct mail featuring this incident will probably start today, and it will be the subject of campaign ads in the fall.
And this wasn't a rogue party planner or single bad investment; this exposed the administration’s "philosophy" toward American energy development. It is another serious blow to President Obama's already weak position on energy-price issues.
The revelation has political punch and staying power. Add it to the list, alongside Solyndra, the GSA and the Medvedev moment.
The approach that Mr. Armendariz confirms suggests so much it is hard to know where to start. But just think of how destructive these people at EPA have been to American consumers (voters). We now see what they plan in their meetings. Does anyone think there has been a meeting at EPA in the past 3 1/2 years where the topic was “Let's think of the top-10 things we can do to make our energy companies more productive, competitive and able to contribute to lower energy costs in a safe, environmentally rational way”? Not a chance. All the forthcoming investigations won't find the minutes of any such meeting.
The EPA scandal erupts at a time when voters are more worried than ever about energy prices and are noticing the lack of concern from Obama, much less a plan to help. Below are a couple of paragraphs related to energy from a memo by Haley Barbour and John McLaughlin on the issues of importance to blue-collar Catholic voters, from research compiled by Resurgent Republic through focus groups in Cleveland and Pittsburgh:
1. To these working class voters, the rising cost of gasoline is more pressing than the debate about domestic energy production. All these voters know is that the cost of gasoline is going up, and they cannot afford it. Other than that, the participants had little knowledge or awareness of an “all of the above” energy policy. Some people had “heard of” the Keystone Pipeline, but were not attune to the details. A few people thought President Obama rejected the Keystone Pipeline because it had “something to do with the environment.” As one woman in Pittsburgh said, “I have a small economical car and it costs too much to fill up. It costs $40. Sometimes I don’t have it, so I put in $5.” When forced to fill up the tank in such small increments, few debates in Washington seem personally relevant.
2. While it wasn’t a topic of conversation in Cleveland, the Pittsburgh groups did support energy production from coal and hydrofracking. Not surprisingly, respondents in Pittsburgh support the use of clean coal technology and believe the industry is vital to the livelihood of many in the community. These voters want to hear about the use of clean coal as part of a broader energy policy. Several other respondents noted how the increase use of hydrofracking creates jobs and additional income for those who hold leases on mineral rights. They are closely following this debate, including any potential impact on the environment, and it is mostly perceived as a net positive.
Nothing about the EPA debacle will be reassuring to these voters or any others. In fact, Mr. Armendariz helped reinforce the connection between energy production and prices, where Obama hasn't been getting all the blame he deserves. And this is another reminder for Obama and team that in politics, bad gets worse.