Today in Cat Herding

Among House Democrats in Rust Belt, a sense of abandonment over energy bill:
When Democratic Rep. John Boccieri went home to Ohio early this year to talk with voters in his Canton-based district, he figured he would have to do battle with at least some constituents over his support for health-care reform. And the economic stimulus. And the auto company bailouts.

But at a meeting with business leaders, he had to come up with fast answers on something completely different: Why, the businessmen wanted to know, had Boccieri voted for a bill last summer to cap carbon emissions, which they feared would drive up their energy bills in the middle of a recession?

Boccieri said he was tired of wars based on "petrol dictators and big oil."

"If I can take a tough vote today, I'm going to take that vote," said the freshman lawmaker, an Air Force reservist who flew C-130s over Iraq for more than a year.

But 13 months after that tough vote, Boccieri and dozens of other House Democrats along the Rust Belt are not at all happy with the way things have turned out. The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had assured reluctant members that the Senate would take up the measure. Although Senate passage wasn't a sure thing, House Democrats hoped to go back home to voters with a great story to tell -- about reducing dependence on foreign oil, slowing climate change and creating jobs.

That didn't happen. Senate leaders, sensing political danger, repeatedly put off energy legislation, and the White House didn't lean on them very hard to make it a priority. In the aftermath of the gulf oil spill, the Senate is set to take up a stripped-down bill next week, but the controversial carbon-emissions cap is conspicuously missing.

This has left some House Democrats feeling badly served by their leaders. Although lawmakers are reluctant to say so publicly, their aides and campaign advisers privately complain that the speaker and the president left Democrats exposed on an unpopular issue that has little hope of being signed into law.
If Obama and the Democrats fail to enact serious energy reform (note: the above bill isn't even serious energy reform, and they're still failing to pass it) during Obama's tenure in the White House, it will be regarded as one of the great failures of his presidency.

No one's going to remember (or care) in a generation that it (allegedly) wasn't politically expedient to vigorously pursue sweeping energy reforms and green initiatives. They're going to remember that Obama had a Democratic congress, was fighting two wars that both have their roots in oil wells, was presiding over a national landscape rife with the "wacky weather" of global climate change, was leading people facing soaring unemployment and unprecedented gas and utility prices, and saw the largest oil spill in history crawl onto our shores, and instead of taking the necessary action to start unwinding this energy-related clusterfuck, they did nothing.

Oh, pardon me. Not nothing. The president did, in fairness, support offshore drilling.

In a generation—hell, in five years—no one will laud him for his good politics. They will admonish him for pissing on the opportunity to do something real, to do something right.

And they'll be absolutely correct.

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