8/08/2008

Lame Political Discourse: Tire Gauges

Fresh off of the controversy surrounding Paris Hilton in a John McCain attack ad, the latest episode of political nonsense stems from Barack Obama's suggestion that Americans ensure that their tires are properly inflated and that their cars are properly maintained so that they can improve their gas mileage and help use less oil. John McCain and Republicans seized on this comment by claiming it was indicative of Obama's naivete by being overly simplistic. McCain even turned this into a fundraising tool by showing the image of a tire gauge with the misleading term "Obama Energy Plan" written on it. In response, Obama labeled the attacks and ridicule as ignorant.

Properly inflating your tires and getting regular tune-ups is obviously not a comprehensive solution to our nation's energy crisis. However, Barack Obama is not saying that it is despite Republicans' outright lies to the contrary. Obama is on record for supporting increased fuel efficiency standards, increased reliance on renewable energy sources, and even offshore drilling as part of a compromise solution. And regarding tires and tune-ups, Obama even said that it was simply something we could all do now--obviously just one component of an overall energy solution. Will anyone call Republicans out on this distortion?

According to Time and Politifact, Obama's solution both makes sense and is factually sound. Inflating your tires and getting regular tune-ups is a good first step for several reasons:

1) It can be done now, so the savings can be felt immediately.
2) It requires no big government intervention.
3) It is not dependent on Congress reaching a compromise and the President signing a bill.
4) It makes our roads safer because cars that are properly maintained are less likely to break down.
5) It has no adverse environmental impact.
6) It encourages personal responsibility.
7) It actually works, thus increasing fuel economy, saving money, and using less oil.

The fact that Obama is advocating an immediate and legitimate solution that encourages personal responsibility and needs no government solution would suggest that conservatives and Republicans should embrace his message. But instead, they are mocking him out of partisan blindness. Florida Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican and possible McCain running mate, has made the exact same recommendation. Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California also echoed this approach. Where was the ridicule then?

Voters who are joining in ridiculing Barack Obama for this solution are akin to those who dismiss common sense approaches to protecting their children from inappropriate content on television. You could propose increased fines for indecency, V-chips in all televisions, or even outright bans on adult or violent content. Those are all solutions with various degrees of merit. But they take time to implement and require lots of compromises, as do offshore drilling, taxing oil companies, and harnessing renewable energy sources. But a common sense approach that everyone could adopt immediately to protect their children is to take greater control over what their children watch by watching television together or restricting the times in which their children are allowed to watch it. Of course that won't solve everything, just as properly inflated tires won't solve all our energy problems, but at least it's something that can be done now and is something that actually works. So again, why the ridicule? Fortunately, the Chicago Tribune suggests that these sophomoric jabs might be misplaced.

It will take years before the oil obtained from offshore drilling can actually be pumped into our gas tanks. But Republicans are right to argue that we should have started drilling years ago because we had these exact same arguments during the 1990s.

It will also take years before automakers are able to mass produce automobiles that run on more environmentally-friendly sources of fuel. But Democrats are right to argue that we should have increased fuel efficiency standards years ago. President Jimmy Carter was right to make energy conservation and fuel efficiency central issues of his presidency 30 years ago, but he was relentlessly mocked for it. Everybody remembers the sweater he wore during his "malaise speech," but the overall point of his message fell upon deaf ears. Obama tire gauges now are the new Carter sweaters.

Republicans are mocking Obama for not being serious about energy and are essentially trying to turn him into a cartoon or a laughing stock. But this abject lack of maturity in their response to this solution is appalling. By mocking Obama, they are essentially saying that getting tune-ups is not important and that it's okay if you drive with underinflated tires. They are also saying that even though Obama's solution actually works and incorporates conservative principles of small government and personal responsibility, it shouldn't be taken seriously, thus further exacerbating our nation's energy problems. And by falsely reducing Obama's overall energy policy to something you can buy at your local Auto Zone, Republicans are banking on voters' ignorance and lack of sophistication.

These voters should be offended, not tickled. Instead of joining the chorus of voices who are laughing at Obama, they should be asking John McCain and Republican operatives why this is even a laughing matter to begin with.

This kind of childishness makes me wonder how many people are supporting Obama not because they endorse his liberal policies, but rather because they are tired of the inane debates over freedom fries, flag pins, middle names, and now tire gauges. To these voters, would a McCain victory be seen as a tacit approval of this kind of nonsense while an Obama victory direct repudiates it?

Both political sides are guilty of overheated rhetoric, intellectual dishonesty, fact tweaking, and petty namecalling. Neither side is immune to hysteria, fear-mongering, feigned outrage, and mudslinging. But abject ignorance is an even worse offense and speaks volumes about the politicians who prey on it and the voters who buy into it.

5 comment(s):

DB said...

This has been another one of those "issues" that is annoying the heck out of me. The ironic thing is that Obama, the Governator, Crist AND Nascar are all suggesting people take personal responsibility for CONSERVING oil! Simply suggesting people conserve is now a point to ridicule on. He should have went further and suggested people car pool, drive less, make more than one stop on a trip into town rather than multiple trips, etc. While I do think we should have pushed drilling years ago, the hypocrisy is abound when someone calls for personal responsibility. I for one am getting turned off by McCain's utter pandering and pettiness lately. Obama is no better half of the time, but it seems that right now McCain is going down to a level not even McCain typically goes to. Good call on this topic.

Brett said...

What sickens me is that that oh-so-moderate "Sam's Club" Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty got into the the "tire gauge" stupidity as well. At least on the bright side, it seems to be fading out a bit as a political gimmick, since Obama and his supporters can so easily point out that it IS a good idea.

I guess this is no surprise, though; I remember clicking on C-SPAN one day, and a female Republican congresswoman was giving a presentation on energy and drilling. I remember she attempted to mock the Democratic position by showing a picture of a small car with a sail on top of it, and calling the Democratic position that of "driving small cars and praying for wind."

Brett said...

db,

I think the idea (unspoken, but there) is that "real Americans" don't conserve. No, they (being good consumers) practice "environmental conspicuous consumption", like buying a whole bunch of green lightbulbs as opposed to simply not having your house lights on as much, or buying a spiffy hybrid, as opposed to simply buying a smaller car with the same gas mileage.

S.W. Anderson said...

". . . conservatives and Republicans should embrace his message. But instead, they are mocking him out of partisan blindness."

Unfortunately, the Republic right gives public policy — especially the kind helpful to ordinary Americans — a low priority. They don't especially like government and politicians being helpful to ordinary Americans, as a matter of ideology.

What the Republican right gives its highest priority to, certainly in election years, is winning and keeping power and control. They will say anything to win. They will do anything to win.

Truth, facts and common sense don't matter to them, except as those things can be harnessed to help them win, however much twisting, distorting and outright lying is required.

I realize this sounds like so much partisan bashing on my part. It's not. There are years and years worth of verifiable examples — facts — to back up my charges.

Anthony Palmer said...

SWA,

Sometimes I get comments from people who say I lean left or that I'm a partisan lefty disguised as an independent. I think this is because the absolute stupidity on the right bothers me a lot more than the hyperbole on the left. Excessive political correctness doesn't grate on my nerves nearly as much as blatant frivolity and childishness. The freedom fries thing really, really bothered me. And this whole discussion about Barack Obama's patriotism bothers me too. If Obama's patriotism is so suspect, why don't his critics try him for treason? If they're not willing to do that, they should just shut up and focus on something that really matters.

Bah.

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DB,

Well said. I liked it when Obama ridiculed Republicans for "taking pride in being ignorant." But there are a lot of voters out there who are lapping it up and mocking Obama for this. McCain said it was a "public service announcement." I guess people just want to criticize Obama for the sake of criticizing him.

Oh, and I just had this unrelated thought: How can McCain claim that Obama is an unknown risky candidate while also being "the biggest celebrity in the world?"

Bah.

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Brett,

Which Congresswoman was this? That's a perfect example of the utter nonsense I was talking about earlier. Here's an imaginary political dialogue that mirrors your example:

A: Me and my my vice president will do whatever it takes to defend America.

B: You mean "my friends and I." How can we believe your education policies when you can't even speak the language correctly?

A: Excuse me, but I was talking about national security.

B: Now you're dodging the issue. Do you or do you not believe that it is important to teach children proper English? Or do you passively support low standards?

It is absolutely ridiculous. And it's making me want to run for office to inject a bit of sanity into our political dialogue.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.