Campaigns to call Obama conservative stumble on energy

From the perspective of the oil and gas business, campaigns by liberal commentators to make President Barack Obama look politically conservative seem otherworldly.

One such maneuver appeared recently in a column by the normally insightful and consistently liberal E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post.

Dionne quoted brash utterances by Republicans competing to become their party’s candidate for president and asserted, “The GOP is engaged in a wholesale effort to redefine the government help that Americans take for granted as an effort to create a radically new, statist society.”

Dionne described Republicans as “increasingly inclined to argue that any redistribution (and Social Security, Medicare, student loans, veterans benefits, and food stamps are all redistributive) is but a step down the road to some radically egalitarian dystopia.”

From these observations the columnist concluded, “Obama will thus become the conservative in 2012 in the truest sense of that word.”

Dionne is of course trying to fry all Republicans forever in grease superheated by the hyperbole of primary-season candidates jockeying momentary poll numbers. It won’t work, partly because the nuttier declarations will be forgotten once the contest moves past the fevered grip of conservative activism.

But Dionne’s doomed branding effort attaches to a broader strategy essential to Obama’s reelection: Paint the president as less liberal than he truly is.

With oil and gas, Obama has been—to use Dionne’s labels—adamantly statist and expressly redistributive.

His administration has made the state, the federal government, central to energy selection preferential to uneconomic renewable forms of energy and hostile to oil, gas, and coal. Mechanisms for implementing those preferences have been aggressive, costly regulation and proposed new taxation of fossil energy forms to fund subsidies essential to uncompetitive alternatives.

Nationalization of energy choice does not characterize anyone as conservative “in the truest sense of that word.” But it aligns seamlessly with an element of history that anyone marketing Obama as conservative also must hide under the political table: state-centered health care.

(Online Dec. 30, 2011; author’s e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

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