The Washington Times - August 5, 2008, 10:35AM

Sen. John McCain’s campaign has helpfully decided to defend Sen. Barack Obama, arguing reporters should believe the Democrat when he says he opposes expanded offshore drilling.

In a release sent this morning campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said Obama’s position has been “mischaracterized” — presumably by reporters who said the Democrat opened the door to more offshore oil drilling.

“He has not changed his position. He has continually campaigned against additional drilling, calling the policy a ‘gimmick’ saying it was a ‘scheme’ and ridiculing those who support it. With his steadfast opposition to John McCain’s ‘all of the above’ approach to our energy crisis, Americans should know that Barack Obama remains opposed to additional domestic oil drilling,” Hazelbaker said.

Obama said Friday and again yesterday he doesn’t like drilling, but is open to it as part of a bipartisan deal that could take shape in Congress.

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It’s not surprising the McCain camp would want to try to tie Obama to his old position, given that pollsters say McCain’s own reversal on the issue a month ago has helped him close a gap in the polls with Obama.

The odd thing is, Obama’s position is exactly the sort of thing McCain would say. And in fact, it’s just what McCain does say on Social Security: he is willing to accept tax increases if it gets Democrats to the table, and Obama is willing to accept drilling if it gets a bipartisan deal done.

Stephen Dinan, national political correspondent, The Washington Times