The Washington Post has a pair of unmatched op-ed columns which, together, help explain why I find domestic politics so exasperating. First up, Robert Samuelson:
First, world oil production can’t rise forever; dwindling reserves will someday cause declines. And, second, barring miraculous discoveries, more will come from unstable regions — especially the Middle East.
We need to face these realities; neither George Bush nor John Kerry does. Their energy plans are rival fantasies. Kerry pledges to make us “independent” of Middle East oil, mainly through conservation and an emphasis on “renewable” fuels (biomass, solar, wind). Richard Nixon was the first president to promise energy “independence.” It couldn’t happen then — and can’t now. The United States imports about 60 percent of its oil. A fifth of imports come from the Persian Gulf. Even if we eliminated Persian Gulf imports, we’d still be vulnerable. Oil scarcities and prices are transmitted worldwide. The global economy — on which we depend — remains hugely in need of Persian Gulf oil.
Bush’s pitch is that we can produce our way out of trouble. No such luck.
“And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable.” Words from a much better writer than I am, and which perfectly sum up our oil problem. There’s no good solution, but our leadership (and would-be leadership) offers us no substantive solutions.
And that brings us to Anne Applebaum:
I don’t mean [Newt] Gingrich was a paragon of virtue, or that Gingrich was a great unifier of men. I mean that Newt Gingrich, as speaker of the House, tried to do what no one has done before or since. Ten years ago this autumn he set out, quixotically, to control Congress’s apparently insatiable urge to spend the nation’s money. He tried to limit the terms of the all-powerful committee chairmen, who had so skewed the appropriations process to the advantage of their constituents. He assailed what he called the “East German socialist” farm subsidy programs that had gone unchallenged for a half-century. He even managed to pass a line-item veto, which would have allowed then-President Bill Clinton to cut pork from the then-Republican Congress’s legislation, had it not been declared unconstitutional.
Never mind his methods or his style: At least he made an effort, which is more than can be said of anyone in the current congressional leadership.
So. Even when we are offered a solution – no matter how flawed or incomplete – we don’t just hound its author out of office, we abandon what few decent things he stood for.
Domestic politics. Feh.