Obama Says Shift on Drilling
is Practical Step
JOHN McCORMICK / Chicago Tribune 2aug2008
Sen. Barack Obama said Saturday he is simply acting pragmatically in softening his opposition to additional oil drilling along the nation's coastline, a shift Republicans say shows he is calculating and out of touch with voters.
Speaking in Florida, Obama insisted he still generally opposes additional drilling—as his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, once did as well—but would be willing to support it as part of a new bipartisan energy proposal that seeks to lessen dependence on foreign oil.
"If we can come up with a genuine bipartisan compromise, in which I have to accept some things that I don't like, or the Democrats have to accept some things that they don't like in exchange for actually moving us in the direction of actual energy independence, then that's something I'm open to," the Illinois Democrat said.
Oil drilling, a hot topic in Florida, has been a point of dispute between Obama and McCain in recent weeks.
"Sen. Obama says he wants energy independence, but he doesn't support anything that serves that goal," McCain said Saturday in his weekly radio address. "He believes every domestic energy source has a problem. I believe every energy source needs to be part of the solution."
Obama, meanwhile, delivered his most pointed critique on questions about negative campaigning, including suggestions last week by the McCain campaign that he had played the "race card" when he said he does not look like previous presidents.
"In no way do I think that John McCain's campaign was being racist. I think they're cynical," Obama said. "Their team is good at creating distractions and engaging in negative attacks and planting doubts about people."
Obama said his comment did have something to do with race, but he was trying to make a broader point about how he believes he is being painted as risky.
"I'm young. I'm new to the national scene," Obama said. "My name is Barack Obama. I am African-American. I was born in Hawaii. I spent time in Indonesia. I do not have the typical biography of a presidential candidate. What that means is that I'm sort of unfamiliar and people are still trying to get a fix on who I am."
Obama dismissed suggestions by some in the media and the McCain campaign that he has acted presumptuously. "If I was presumptuous, or taking this for granted, I wouldn't be working this hard this week. I'm beat."
Later, in a speech to the National Urban League convention in Orlando, Obama pledged to avoid the kinds of attacks McCain's campaign has made in the past week.
"I'm not going to assault Sen. McCain's character," he said. "I'm not going to compare him to pop stars."
McCain ads criticize Obama as being a celebrity like Britney Spears or Paris Hilton.
At another event in Titusville, Fla., on Saturday, Obama sought to counter reports that he would use funding from the successor to the space shuttle program to help pay for his education proposals. "We've got to make sure that the money that's going into NASA for basic research and development continues to go there," he said.
McCain, meanwhile, used his radio address to contrast his record of independence with Obama's speaking skills.
While calling Obama an "impressive orator," the Arizona Republican added that it was a lucky thing for him that people "aren't just choosing a motivational speaker." He also portrayed Obama as a tax-hiker who will expand government.
"Government is too big, and he wants to grow it. Taxes are too high, and he wants to raise them. Congress spends too much, and he proposes more. ... We're finally winning in Iraq, and he wants to forfeit," McCain said. "With an agenda like that, a knack for rhetoric comes in mighty handy."
Tribune correspondents Mark Silva and Jill Zuckman contributed to this report from Washington.