The oily plunge that presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain and Gov. Charlie Crist took into the eastern Gulf of Mexico last week was not nearly so awkward, it turns out, as their attempts to swim back to shore. The waves of Florida offshore oil drilling politics are knocking them all over the place.
June 17, McCain: "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. … We must … assure affordable fuel for America by increasing domestic production."
June 16, Crist: "(Drilling) is the last thing in the world I'd like to do, but I also understand what people are paying at the pump, and I understand the drag it is on our economy."
June 16, McCain, asked how far offshore a state should be able to control: "I think that's a subject of negotiation and discussion. But right now, as you know, there's a moratorium, and those … moratoria have to be lifted."
Days pass. Tourism officials fret. Energy experts ridicule. Floridians complain. Environmentalists erupt.
June 25, Crist: "Only when we are able to do so far enough from Florida's coast, safe enough for our people, and clean enough for our beaches, should we even consider increasing our oil supply by drilling off Florida's shores."
June 26, McCain adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin, in the Tampa Tribune: McCain backs the 2006 law that bans drilling in the eastern Gulf. "If the people of Florida view that as something that should be off limits, it remains off limits."
(McCain, in 1985, opposing California lawmakers who wanted to limit oil drilling there: "This resource belongs to all Americans. It seems incredibly arrogant for the California delegation.")
Leave it to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to cut through the offshore oil turbulence. On Thursday, he kicked off a global climate summit with some plain talk:
"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. But anyone who tells you this will lower our gas prices anytime soon is blowing smoke."
And swimming in circles.