Monday, August 4, 2008

What Does Good Press Look Like?

Cross-posted at MyDD

If you, like myself, supported John Edwards and then Hillary Clinton during this year's primaries, the question posed by this diary may be a bit of a head-scratcher. What, indeed, does good press look like? How would I know?

While Barack Obama has hardly escaped unfair treatment at the hands of the media, at least he's gotten a little love here and there. The $64,000 question was always going to be, once we got into the general election, would Obama continue to get a decent amount of positive treatment or would the media rush to embrace its one true love, John McCain?

Savvy observers have noted that as McCain has gone sharply, crassly negative against Obama in recent weeks, the media has shown signs of starting to turn on him, perhaps realizing that he's not actually the honorable straight shooter they've been telling us about all these years. Let's take a look at an example that supports this thesis - yes, a case of the media actually doing its job!

You're probably aware that even though Obama gave a spectacular speech on energy today (which I may blog more about later), the GOP is up to their usual immature antics, trying to pretend that Obama has no energy policy at all. Seizing upon an innocuous remark of Obama's to the effect that we can all conserve energy simply by getting regular tune-ups and making sure our tires are properly inflated, the McCain campaign has begun to distribute tire pressure gauges labelled "Obama Energy Plan."

Get the joke? See, while McCain is wise enough to support an increase in offshore drililng, Obama thinks we can just ignore the problem as long as we inflate our tires! Ha, ha! As silly as it seems, though, I started to worry about the possibility that people might enjoy the gag, that it might become the new "invented the Internet" line of 2008. Remember Barack Obama? The candidate so awful that he said we could solve the energy crisis by inflating our tires? Thank God he didn't win!

But then something interesting happened. In clear violation of the "Reagan Rules" that forbid the media from ever calling Republicans out on their folly, the truth started getting told. I first noticed this while checking out local coverage of Obama's energy speech in the Detroit Free Press:

McCain, Obama air views on tire pressure

...The Republican National Committee offered today to send reporters tire gauges as a stunt to mark Obama’s birthday, and McCain’s campaign sold an “Obama Energy Plan” tire gauge for a $25 donation.

“We need to offshore drill for oil and natural gas. We need to drill here and we need to drill now. McCain said today at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, adding “We’re not going to achieve energy independence by inflating our tires.”

But the numbers give Obama a strong argument.

Tire pressure checks have been a key fuel-saving tip that automakers, tire companies and government experts have recommended for years. On its fuel economy Web site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that underinflated tires can shave up to 3% from a vehicle’s fuel economy.

Over a couple hundred million vehicles, those shavings add up. The Department of Energy estimated in 2005 that U.S. motorists wasted 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline a year from driving on underinflated tires -- roughly 61 million barrels of oil.

By comparison, the U.S. Department of Interior says there are 17.9 billion barrels of oil available off-shore in areas under the federal drilling ban. Due to a shortage of equipment and legal hurdles, experts estimate that if the ban was lifted, it would take at least five years to produce an additional drop of oil from those areas.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said last year that new off-shore drilling could add about 200,000 barrels of oil per day to U.S. output -- not enough to have “a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.”

Then I noticed, on the front page of CNN, a link to an even stronger story by Time:

The Tire-Gauge Solution: No Joke

How out of touch is Barack Obama? He's so out of touch that he suggested that if all Americans inflated their tires properly and took their cars for regular tune-ups, they could save as much oil as new offshore drilling would produce. Gleeful Republicans have made this their daily talking point; Rush Limbaugh is having a field day; and the Republican National Committee is sending tire gauges labeled "Barack Obama's Energy Plan" to Washington reporters.

But who's really out of touch? The Bush Administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 bbl. per day by 2030. We use about 20 million bbl. per day, so that would meet about 1% of our demand two decades from now. Meanwhile, efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone did, we could immediately reduce demand several percentage points. In other words: Obama is right.

Politics ain't beanbag, and Obama has defended himself against worse smears. The real problem with the attacks on his tire-gauge plan is that efforts to improve conservation and efficiency happen to be the best approaches to dealing with the energy crisis — the cheapest, cleanest, quickest and easiest ways to ease our addiction to oil, reduce our pain at the pump and address global warming. It's a pretty simple concept: if our use of fossil fuels is increasing our reliance on Middle Eastern dictators while destroying the planet, maybe we ought to use less.

When Hillary's gas tax holiday was savaged in the media, I was kind of upset - not because I thought it was the greatest idea ever, but because they were giving Hillary the sort of full-blown factchecking they would never, ever apply to Republican claims. Well, as it happens, John McCain is starting to pay the price for his negative campaign and experience a little bit of the Hillary treatment for himself. And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy, don't you agree?


andgarden said...

Mebbe Steve, mebbe.

I think it's on Obama to throw some punches now, before the energy chapter is closed.

DCDemocrat said...

The release of that ad yesterday, andgarden, about the relationship between John McCain and big oil might start the ball rolling. Negative advertising is a two-edged sword. It does tarnish one's opponent, but it also drives down voter turnout, so Obama suffers more from negative advertising, no matter who does it, because Obama will benefit from high turn out.

Steve said...

When even NASCAR come out agreeing with Obama you have know the right is wrong again.
"Mr. Vietor also found a NASCAR press release from 2006 that supported the theory and distributed that as well. The piece, which begins, "Tires are the Rodney Dangerfield of the automotive world…[they] get no respect," carries the headline "Tire maintenance key to safety, fuel economy."

Be kind first post here

hootie4170 said...

Great read Steve!!

Psychodrew said...

Steve, I'd mojo you if I could!

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