THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 2, 2008
Reports in July indicated
there might be a GOP platform battle over drilling in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). It ended up being a skirmish.
Many party leaders--including platform committee co-chair
Kevin McCarthy--vehemently support ANWR drilling, while nominee John McCain believes
it would sully a "pristine place." When the platform committee convened in Minneapolis to discuss the
2008 document, lines
David Boyle, a delegate from Alaska, proposed an
amendment that would explicitly call for drilling in "the coastal plain of the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." In an interview Tuesday, Boyle told me he saw
the amendment as critical because "it's a problem when you have 10 billion
barrels of oil in your backyard and you don't want to use them." Several
delegates supported the amendment, including Cathie Adams, president of the
Texas Eagle Forum. "I also have an extreme interest in national security, and
having us vulnerable to another oil embargo and those with religious doctrines
who wish to harm us and our allies--it's not good to be beholden to those
interests," Adams said Tuesday.
But, they had several opponents--delegates who feared that a
platform straying too far from the nominee's views might confuse voters and
make the party appear broken. They advocated leaving the ANWR issue alone.
In the end, after much debate, both sides got a piece of the
pie. The amendment failed, but Kim Skipper, the other Alaskan delegate on the
committee, proposed compromise language: The GOP will "oppose any efforts and
action to permanently block access to the coastal plain of the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge." Boyle and Adams both said they are happy with the result
because it leaves ANWR drilling on the table. Still, Boyle said "a lot of
Alaskans may have been more pleased if the amendment had been in the platform."
Adams insisted that drilling needs to start
"as soon as possible."
So, what happens now, seeing as McCain still hasn't embraced
the idea? It seems delegates close to the platform process are absolutely certain
that advisors and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who supports drilling,
will knock some sense into McCain. Adams said that
if elected, McCain would leave the "politics of global warming" behind him. "We
are seeing already with Mr. McCain that when the science is in, when the
research has been done, he has a record of coming in line with what is best for
our country," she told me. And even Jeff Grossman, an Oregon delegate who opposed Boyle's
amendment out of concern for divisiveness, said in committee debate
that he thinks McCain will "eventually come around to our position."
"So I would say prudence would dictate that we leave the
text as it is until our candidate catches up with us a little bit," he added.
The delegates could be right. After all, McCain reversed
his position on offshore drilling in a snap.