Schwarzenegger seems to hit Bush, McCain, Crist on drilling

California's governor, who had held his tongue before, says anyone who promises that certain policies will reduce gas prices soon "is blowing smoke."

Published June 26, 2008 10:07PM (EDT)

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made some waves Thursday. During an appearance at the Florida Climate Change Summit, hosted by that state's governor, Republican Charlie Crist, Schwarzenegger seemed to accuse Crist, along with President Bush and John McCain, of being dishonest about energy prices.

"Politicians have been throwing around all kinds of ideas in response to the skyrocketing energy prices, from the rethinking of nuclear power to pushing biofuels and more renewables and ending the ban on offshore drilling, it goes on and on the list," Schwarzenegger said, according to the St. Petersburg Times. "But, anyone who tells you this will lower our gas prices anytime soon is blowing smoke."

Bush, McCain and Crist all support an end to the federal ban on offshore drilling -- for McCain, that's a recent flip-flop; Crist followed his lead.

Schwarzenegger's office maintains that he did not mean to criticize any of his fellow Republicans. Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the California governor, told the Times, "He was not referring to either [McCain or Crist]. Neither Crist nor McCain has said offshore drilling is going to immediately reduce gas prices." But Bush has implied that, and to some extent so has McCain, depending on how you choose to read some of his recent remarks. In a big speech on energy policy that he gave in Texas earlier this month, during which he discussed his support for lifting the ban on offshore drilling, McCain said:

With gasoline running at more than four bucks a gallon, many do not have the luxury of waiting on the far-off plans of futurists and politicians. We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.

And at a town hall on Monday, McCain said, "I don't see an immediate relief, but I do see that exploitation of existing reserves that may exist -- and in view of many experts that do exist off our coasts -- is also a way that we need to provide relief. Even though it may take some years, the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have psychological impact that I think is beneficial." The next day, though, McCain said, "When people are hurting, and struggling to afford gasoline, food, and other necessities, common sense requires that we draw upon America's own vast reserves of oil and natural gas."

Of course, no matter how McCain himself might sometimes hedge on his own remarks, the implication -- and in some cases the explicit message -- coming from his campaign and from his surrogates and others on the right is that offshore drilling would have an immediate impact.

And it's also noteworthy that when Schwarzenegger and McCain appeared together in California to discuss energy recently, Schwarzenegger kept these sorts of thoughts to himself.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Arnold Schwarzenegger George W. Bush John Mccain R-ariz.