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Kneecapping Cap And Trade?

Larry Kudlow notices that John McCain's 15-page economic plan makes no mention at all of cap-and-trade in its environment/energy section. Kudlow followed up:

I picked up the phone and dialed a senior McCain official to make sure these old eyes hadn’t missed it. Sure enough, on deep background, this senior McCain advisor told me I was correct: no cap-and-trade. In other words, this central-planning, regulatory, tax-and-spend disaster, which did not appear in Mac’s two recent speeches, has been eradicated entirely — even from the detailed policy document that hardly anybody will ever read.

So then I asked this senior official if the campaign has taken cap-and-trade out behind the barn and shot it dead once and for all — buried it in history’s dustbin of bad ideas. The answer came back that they are interested in jobs right now — jobs for new energy production and jobs from lower taxes.

(I feel like half of National Review Online consists of attacks on Barack Obama as a slimy flip-flopper whose rightward shifts in emphasis make him unfit to govern, and the other half consists of fulsom praise for John McCain for having the vision and intellectual depth to shift rightward.)

Anyway, Brad Plumer, who covers the environment for us, emailed the McCain campaign, and was flatly told that McCain still supports cap-and-trade. Kudlow seems to be optimistically over-interpreting whatever it is he was told.

Still, it's worth noting a couple things. First, I McCain has already come out against the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill, an earlier version of which he was a co-sponsor. (His support for that bill is the basis for McCain's claim in an advertisement  that he "stood up to the president" and "has a realistic plan that will curb greenhouse gas emissions.) So quietly abandoning even his formal support for the concept wouldn't be a totally radical break. Second, McCain's many rightward policy reversals have been leaked through sotto voce conversations with conservative pundits, which allow him to reassure the right without tarnishing his maverick image.

So I don't think McCain is abandoning cap-and-trade. I do suspect he wants moderates and conservatives to have different ideas about how seriously he plans to attack global warming.

--Jonathan Chait