Compromise, baby, compromise

Offshore drilling may be the tougher, better choice

It is easy to look at President ObamaâÄôs recent decision to expand offshore drilling as a cynical ploy to win over Republican support in preparation for a climate bill fight, and many news analyses have done so. However, most immediately go on to say the measure has not won him any support, citing criticism from both environmental organizations and Republicans. In fact, John BoehnerâÄôs reaction was to say that âÄúthe Obama Administration continues to defy the will of the American people,âÄù adding that the Pacific, northeast, and Alaskan coasts should also be drilled. If one looks as this decision as a political one, then it was a misguided, cynical effort that backfired horribly. But are we so jaded that we immediately think every policy decision is motivated by nothing but politics? Do we think our politicians are incapable of making tough, complex decisions that donâÄôt toe a party line (and that involve real costs) for the benefit of the country? President ObamaâÄôs decision has given neither side entirely what it wanted, but each side also has something to cheer for: drilling proponents have gotten some coastal areas opened, but other environmentally sensitive areas like Bristol Bay in Alaska are more strongly protected. There will be some environmental costs, but there will also be economic and security benefits. In his State of the Union address, Obama said America needed to make âÄútough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas developmentâÄù as part of a broader energy platform that also pushes renewable and clean energies. He realizes that âÄúdrilling alone can’t come close to meeting our long-term energy needs,âÄù but it can help in the short term âÄî it is a compromise. This decision is another example of ObamaâÄôs pragmatic governing style that was on display in the health insurance reform debates of the past year. Obama was willing to incorporate Republican ideas into the bill not because they would win Republican support (they did not), but because they made the bill better. In the end, both sides wound up with some, but not all, of what they wanted âÄî neither side was happy, but the bill that passed made real changes that made America better off. Far from being a partisan ideologue or politically calculating, President Obama seems almost entirely unconcerned with public relations and political maneuvers. Instead, he genuinely seems interested in doing what is best for the country, even if that means upsetting the left or making tough choices that involve trade-offs. The media and the public may not be used to public officials concerned with making the country âÄî not themselves âÄî better off, but we should be thankful we have a President that is brave enough to make decisions that, while potentially having costs and being politically unpopular, are made in the interest of the public good. Eric Murphy welcomes comments at [email protected]