- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2008

Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s decision to embrace limited offshore drilling was halfhearted and loaded with caveats and he predicted the senator from Illinois would find a reason to change his position again if he had to vote on the issue.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed with Mr. Obama’s stance that some offshore drilling could beon the table as part of a broader energy bill.

“What Senator Obama said is what we want a president to say,” Mrs. Pelosi said on “This Week” on ABC. “Let’s look at all of the options. Let’s compare them. And let’s see what really does increase our supply, protect our environment, save our economy, protect the consumer, instead of a single-shot thing that does none of the above.”

The California Democrat would not elaborate when moderator George Stephanopoulos pressed for details, beyond saying, “You never say never to anything.”

But she is adamant against a vote on a stand-alone bill for allowing increased offshore drillingand dismissed proposed exploration and development asan effort to “to mislead the American people as to thinking it’s going to reduce the price at the pump.”

“From my standpoint, my flagship issue as speaker of the House in this 110th Congress has been to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” she said.

Mr. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent and a surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said he was skeptical of Mr. Obama’s support of a proposal from a bipartisan group of 10 senators that Friday proposed a compromise energy plan that included drilling in areas currently off limits, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and nuclear energy.

“John McCain sees the crisis,” Mr. Lieberman said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Barack Obama says this weekend, ‘maybe,’ ‘eh,’ ‘and,’ ‘if,’ ‘but.’ He did not endorse, he did not come out with a strong decision.

“I predict to you he’ll find reasons not to be for it if this comes to a vote in the Senate,” said Mr. Lieberman, an ex-Democrat who formerly opposed expanded offshore drilling.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, who appeared with Mr. Lieberman, accused his Senate colleague of distorting Mr. Obama’s position, saying the senator from Illinois remains opposed to drilling but is prepared to “break America’s gridlock by honoring a bipartisan effort, if that is the only way to move us towards alternative and renewable fuels and an energy policy that’s comprehensive.”

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain opposed expanded oil exploration along U.S. coastlines while campaigning for the presidential nomination. But Mr. Obama said Friday he would consider it as part of a comprehensive energy plan that included promoting fuel-efficient cars and developing alternate energy sources.

“My interest is in making sure we’ve got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices,” Mr. Obama said in an interview last week with the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post.

“If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well-thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage, I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done.”

Mr. McCain also had a change of heart on the issue several weeks ago, and now supports drilling because of spiraling energy costs.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, defended Mr. McCain’s reversal on “Fox News Sunday,” saying that “it’s OK to change your mind in politics if it benefits your country” but that “it’s not OK to break your word.”

To make that point, Mr. Graham distinguished Mr. McCain’s change of position on offshore drilling, which wouldn’t especially benefit him, with Mr. Obama’s on public financing for his presidential campaign. Mr. Obama at first said he would accept public financing, which includes spending limits, but rejected it when it became clear he could raise hundreds of millions of dollars outside the federal funding system and vastly outspend Mr. McCain.

Mr. Obama’s Democratic supporters on Capitol Hill have repeated their argument that expanding offshore oil exploration would take nearly a decade to produce any oil, thus not affecting gasoline prices today. They also said oil companies should first start drilling in the millions of acres for which they already hold leases.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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