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And... The Mccain Backpedal Begins

So the Lieberman-Warner climate bill is getting plopped down before the Senate next week. The final vote could be a squeaker. And John McCain said a few weeks ago, "I hope it will pass." That made sense; after all, the bill is pretty darn similar to his own cap-and-trade proposal. But now McCain's saying that he might not even bother showing up for the actual vote. Because you never know, sometimes these bills just pass themselves...

Plus, McCain adds, he may end up opposing the whole thing, after all. The Wall Street Journal struggles to figure out why on earth he'd do that. First McCain says that there's not enough support for the nuclear industry tucked away in there. Except the bill does offer quite a bit of support for nuclear (and, anyway, a price on carbon is a de facto boost for nuclear power). Does he want even more--say, billions of dollars in direct subsidies? Well, no, McCain replies, that's not what he's asking for... Okay, what is he asking for? Some mumbling about the licensing process ensues. It's all quite unclear, and it sounds like even Lieberman's not sure why McCain's being so difficult.

As mentioned before, there are a whole host of problems with Lieberman-Warner, and I'm sympathetic to the view that if this thing can't be strengthened on the floor, environmentalists might be better off waiting until next year. But McCain's just being incoherent on the subject right now. It's possible he's too scared to cast a 'yea' vote and rile up conservatives at the very moment that Bush is doing all that fund-raising for him....

--Bradford Plumer