Butch Mazzuca: McCain got these wrong | VailDaily.com

Butch Mazzuca: McCain got these wrong

A little more than six years ago I was asked by the editor of this newspaper to bring a politically conservative perspective to the Vail Daily’s commentary page. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I support Senator John McCain and most of his policies.

However, I’m not in lockstep with any politician, and the following are three issues where I feel the senator was dead wrong.

McCain-Feingold: Its purpose was to limit the influence of big money in politics, but as they say, “the best laid plans …” Instead of limiting influence as the Arizona and Wisconsin senators intended, this legislation has led to an avalanche of money being funneled into 527 groups. (The name 527 comes from the section of the IRS tax code allowing independent groups to raise and spend as much as they want on political ads so long as they don’t expressly advocate a candidate or coordinate their campaign with a specific party or candidate.) We cherish our First Amendment rights, but too many 527s are simply over-the-top in their negative campaigning, and many have come to realize that McCain-Feingold has become a “poster-child” for the law of unintended consequences.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: what could Sen. McCain have been thinking? America needs realistic solutions to address immigration reform. And it’s understandable why Sen. McCain reached across the aisle to Sen. Ted Kennedy, but McCain-Kennedy was convoluted and riddled with so much fine print that it would have exacerbated an already out-of-control situation. Fortunately, it appears that Sen. McCain listened to the outcry from the American people and modified his position on the matter.

Being a federalist, the senator has openly stated that if elected he will mandate that the border states take responsibility for securing their own borders. A good idea, but the senator has been a little light on the details of specifically how the feds under a McCain administration would support the various state governors. As always, the devil will be in the details.

Drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge: for the life of me I do not understand McCain’s anathema to drilling in this frozen tundra. When gasoline was $2 a gallon there was no urgency to drill off-shore, but at $4.25 per gallon, John McCain understands that we have to “stop the bleeding” and begin pursuing our own known oil resources. The senator is spot-on regarding the need to develop new technologies such as wind, solar, and geothermal while at the same time pursuing “clean coal” and advanced nuclear power as alternate sources of energy. But protecting ANWR? What are we protecting it from?

Political commentator Jonah Goldberg framed the issue this way after visiting ANWR several years ago. “The whole area is really just a Rorschach test for the imagination. There’s little doubt that for much of human history most reasonable people would have considered this spot the definition of the word “godforsaken.” Even ANWR fetishists concede that in the winter, with its complete darkness and 70-below-zero temperatures, not counting wind chill, this is no paradise.” (Note: the other three seasons won’t bring rapture either.)

Nevertheless, Sen. McCain has likened drilling in ANWR to drilling in the Grand Canyon or the Florida Everglades. But those are national treasures whereas ANWR is a frozen chunk of tundra in one of the world’s most desolate spots. Still, McCain won’t budge on the ANWR issue. I guess this means because ANWR is the “equivalent” of the Grand Canyon or the Everglades, only a Philistine would support their despoliation for something as pedestrian as tapping domestic oil resources to slow the flow of billions of dollars to nations that hate us.

What makes this so difficult to fathom is that ANWR is approximately the size of South Carolina and the oil exploration there would take place on approximately 2,000 acres. In effect, the drilling “footprint” would be smaller than the size of Denver International Airport. I fail to see the logic in the senator’s position vis-à-vis our current energy crisis.

In addition, the huge North Slope oil field at Prudhoe Bay Alaska has been in production for almost 30 years and the environment thrives. Caribou herds have actually increased five-fold since the oil companies arrived, contrary to the prediction of the sky-is-falling environmentalists.

It’s been argued that more oil seeps out of cars each day in an average Wal-Mart parking lot than has been spilled in Alaska in more than a quarter-century. But the most intriguing part of this debate that’s seldom mentioned is that because so much drilling equipment and logistical infrastructure/support already exists in Prudhoe Bay, experts have argued that ANWR could be producing oil in as little time as three to four years! Recall that if Bill Clinton hadn’t vetoed drilling in ANWR 10 years ago America would be getting that oil today.

Against this backdrop, I think it’s fair to ask the senator two questions. Are you being held hostage by the same environmental lobby that many Democrats in Congress are; and are you simply pandering to the “greens” by choosing not to drill in ANWR?

Quote of the day: “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” ” Thomas Jefferson

Butch Mazzuca is a business consultant and writes a column for the Vail Daily.

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