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Friday, May 14, 2010

Just a Reminder: Republicans Lie

Yesterday, I included this video in my daily roundup. Think Progress had caught Republicans attending a morning fundraiser with the oil and gas industry on the very same day that the House would take testimony from executives about the Deepwater Horizon gusher polluting the Gulf of Mexico. It's Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, the first interview, that I want to examine here:

INTERVIEWER: Nice to meet you Congressman Sessions... Do you think on the morning that the House is going to talk to a lot of these BP and oil executives, it's good that your caucus is meeting with the oil and gas industry for a fundraiser?

SESSIONS: You know, what I think is really good is that Barack Obama wants oil prices to skyrocket, consumers to pay five dollar gasoline, and to continue his drive to make sure we lose ten million American jobs.

The problem here is that Pete's not even within shooting distance of reality.

In the roundup, I focused on what seemed most obvious to me. Sessions is pulling a mindreading act, telling the interviewer that Barack Obama wants a whole list of things that Obama has never said he wanted and that no sane person (other than the oil execs Sessions just finished meeting with) would ever want. This is a favorite version of the straw man for the right; create a position no one holds (see John McCain's "Obama wants to teach sex ed to kindergartners" ad for a fine example), then pretend to defend the voter from the insane positions you've just made up out of thin air.

I can do the same thing. Pete Sessions wants the Gulf of Mexico filled with oil. He wants you to drink oil and eat oil and, if someone doesn't stop him, he'll come over to your house and dump oil all over your lawn. He's never actually said he wants that or that he'd do it, but his actions make that clear. Pete Sessions wants to poison your baby's mashed peas with light sweet crude.

But this sort of straw man argument is only dishonest. You can't really say it's a lie, you can only say Sessions is incorrect. Even though he states this list of crazy things President Obama supposedly wants, he's clearly taking the position of someone taking a guess. There's a level of plausible deniability here. Pete could simply be wrong. That'd make him a fool, sure -- but Republicans don't have any problem with looking foolish. "Lying or stupid?" is a call you often have to make when considering the things Republicans say.

And, as much as I like to give Republicans the benefit of the doubt, assume they wouldn't like to be called liars, and instead call them stupid, I can't in this situation. Pete Sessions is just lying and there's no way around it. He talks about "five dollar gasoline," but the facts point in the other direction.

Associated Press:

Gas prices are poised to fall as Memorial Day approaches, a welcome change for motorists who have gotten used to seeing increases cut into their summer vacation money.

Experts who had been predicting a national average of more than $3 per gallon by Memorial Day now say prices have likely peaked just beneath that threshold. Rising supplies and concerns about the global economy have helped send wholesale gasoline prices plummeting by 22 cents a gallon since last week.

"Gasoline supplies are about as good as they've ever been going into the summer driving season," says oil analyst Phil Flynn of PFGBest in Chicago.

If offshore drilling is our only hope in keeping gas prices down, then millions of gallons of oil spilling out into the ocean really ought to drive prices up, wouldn't you think? Yet AP reports, "The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has had no impact on fuel prices because it's had only minimal impact on petroleum production." Turns out that events and situations in other parts of the world are having an even bigger (and more positive) effect on oil prices. There's a reason for that.

American offshore drilling only accounts for about 2% of the global oil supply -- a drop in the bucket. And that oil doesn't necessarily stay here, it's sold on a global market as a commodity. Think of it as all being poured into one big, giant vat, then whoever wants it buys so many buckets of it. The oil we drill here may very well go to China, which obviously does nothing to keep the price down at the Gas'n'Go down the street. And the "offshore drilling keeps oil prices low" argument is further eroded by other facts.

In 2007, the US was by far the top consumer of oil, chugging it down at a rate of 20,680,000 barrels a day. This accounts for 24% of total global oil consumption. Now, even if we kept all the oil produced by offshore drilling here in the states, we'd still be relying on other sources for 92% of the oil we consume (the remainder after we take our 2% of global production from our 24% of global consumption). Not only is offshore drilling a drop in the bucket globally, it's a drop in the bucket here at home. The reduced production in the Gulf has had no effect on gas prices. And there isn't enough oil out there for increased production to make any difference either. Numbers don't lie.

And, for better or worse (and I say worse), Obama still hasn't ruled out increasing offshore drilling. Not only is Sessions accusing the president of wanting things he's never expressed, he's accusing him of wanting things that are the opposite of what he's expressed. It's around this point that the benefit of the doubt -- the excuse that Sessions is just being typically stupid -- falls apart. Sessions may or may not be dumb, be we can also say without hesitation that he's lying.

This isn't to single Pete Sessions out. The fact of the matter is that he sounds like any Republican on the subject -- or any subject. They don't seem to care about real solutions, but are only concerned with making Democrats and Obama look bad. If that's not exactly helpful to the nation, that's tough. If it takes lying to get the job done, then 24/7, wall-to-wall lies it will be.


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