Political issues are so only when there is disagreement about something. The reason the oil spill crisis and federal government reaction to it has become an electoral issue in Louisiana is that Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon, running for the job of and against Republican Sen. David Vitter, disputes Vitter’s opposition to any moratorium and, apparently unlike Vitter, sees oil companies as “killers.”
In a remarkably candid WWL-TV interview Melancon, badly trailing Vitter in the polls, said some remarkable things that, a few days later, at least one of which he’s now trying to repudiate. For example, while he made comments that parish leaders were generally satisfied with the response of the Pres. Barack Obama Administration, at least one of them – Plaquemines Parish Pres. Billy Nungesser – consistently has said and acted otherwise.
But the comment to which now Melancon desperately tries to crawfish from just a few days later is the one that he stated repeatedly during the interview, that he does support a moratorium on drilling – not a complete moratorium as Obama declared, but some kind nonetheless. Thus, it is entirely accurate to say he is a supporter of the moratorium applying as it does on this present day, as the Vitter campaign hyperbolically has pointed out.
Melancon’s two-faced attitude on this comes from the dictates of his campaign. He doesn’t want to chase away potential voters who will blame him for supporting any moratorium because of its economy-killing aspects in Louisiana, yet at the same time he needs to throw red meat to the rabid left which he cannot afford to have sit out the contest over lack of enthusiasm for him. Thus, he has harsh words for those companies that, in order to stay in business, plan on shifting rigs out of the Gulf during a moratorium: “You’re going to Nigeria because you don’t want to stand for inspections here, so you’re going to kill Nigerians and ruin their ocean, is that the deal?”
It’s a nice try at demagoguery, trying to blame the companies rather than himself for his support of a moratorium, but it just is not factual. All rigs were inspected in mid-May by the federal government and declared, with just a couple of minor issues, to be in compliance. It’s not inspections, it’s the economy, stupid. This and his sudden denials implying he is in all forms against a moratorium illustrates how Melancon tries to have it both ways in trying to win votes – neither honest.
As if this isn’t enough fakery to fill his days, Melancon’s campaign has taken to misrepresenting Vitter’s position on spill liability. Vitter supports efforts to cap liability of companies at a minimum of $150 million – twice the current maximum – and as high as the total of the four latest quarters of a company’s profits which is much higher, using the present BP case as an example, than legislation offered by long-time Democrats drilling opponents. Yet although a “cap” is defined as an upper limit, Melancon’s campaign has taken to equating Vitter’s support of a “cap,” no matter how high, to a “bailout” defined as “a rescue from financial distress” – two very different things.
That also begs the question of Melancon: by criticizing Vitter’s preference of even a high cap, does that mean Melancon doesn’t want any liability cap? That if a terrible accident occurs (keep in mind companies do not want one because of the liability concerns and loss in profits from being unable to get the oil) a whole company, the jobs it creates, and the added productivity to the economy it stimulates and the benefits it brings consumers, should be wiped out? Maybe this reflects an attitude of Melancon that does not see oil companies as contributors to wealth creation in society but rather as greedy “killers,” explaining his televised remarks?
The mendacity surrounding Melancon on this issue should be expected, with his Senate campaign going so poorly. Still, it’s disappointing to see him stoop so low.