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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, July 03, 2008

SpongeJohn GardPants and the Mythical Chinese Oil Drillers

by folkbum

(I would not have used xoff's greatest gift to Wisconsin bloggers in my title had this not been an underthesea-related story.)

A month or so ago, Vice President Dick "Dick" Cheney was rambling on about something and let slip a complaint that the Chinese were drilling up OUR OIL right off the coast of Florida with the help of Cuba, those commie bastards. Okay, that's a praphrase. Here's what Cheney really said:
Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech Wednesday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, picked up the refrain. Cheney quoted a column by George Will, who wrote last week that "drilling is under way 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are."

In his speech, Cheney described the Chinese as being "in cooperation with the Cuban government. Even the communists have figured out that a good answer to higher prices means more supply."
That makes for a great story and it backs a significant aspect of the Republican philosophy of drilling our way out of the gas crisis (which John McCain, GOP candidate for president, suggests we both can and can't do). Gas prices are high, Americans are ticked off, and the dirtyhippielibrultreehuggers won't let us have OUR OWN OIL but China is taking it.

I bet you can see the problem coming. That's right--the story was just not true.
[N]o one can prove that the Chinese are drilling anywhere off Cuba's shoreline. The China-Cuba connection is "akin to urban legend," said Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican from Florida who opposes drilling off the coast of his state but who backs exploration in ANWR.
Cheney's office even did the unthinkable and admitted that Cheney was wrong and that no, China was indeed not drilling for oil off the coast of South Florida. It's also interesting to learn that Mel Martinez is now apparently a dirtyhippielibrultreehugger,

Note the dates on those stories: The first, explaining that the story was false, was posted on June 11. It even got some pretty heavy play on the blogs at the time. So it's not to much of a surprise to learn that John Gard, career politician who lost to first-time candidate Steve Kagen in 2006, would repeat the lie in a June 4 press release (.pdf).


But it doesn't explain why, days after the lie was exposed, Gard was still walking around handing out this flier at county fairs.

Talking Points Memo got ahold of the flier (confidential to 8th CD tipsters: what am I? Chopped liver?), and made some calls. Our old friend Mark Graul dug the hole deeper:
At first, Gard campaign manager Ellen Nowak told us that these flyers had been scrapped. "We didn't print them that way," Nowak said, after the text was read to her over the phone.

Then she made the mistake of referring us to communications director Mark Graul, who confirmed the flyer's existence. But he said it wasn't about China, insisting that the "foreign nations" reference was to India, Brazil and other countries. "We now know that China are not drilling per se," Graul said, "but other foreign countries are."

Sadly, that's not true, either.
Sigh. A couple weeks before TPM had at Graul and co., the Green Bay Press Gazette, on their blog, not in the paper where it belonged, was on the case, with Gard standing by a weaselly version of the urban legend, that China was "exploring to set up" off of the Florida coast. That's not what the flier said, that's not what his campaign said when it announced its energy plan ( the references to China have not even been scrubbed from his website!).

It's a simple thing, John. Just man up and say, as the vice president did, that you were wrong. That you bought into a Republican urban oil myth (like the one about Katrina not causing any oil spills) and that you're sorry. It's not hard.

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