BOLD, PRINCIPLED LEADERSHIP… Ask John McCain the one issue where he would separate himself from the President and he almost always answers “climate change.” Rhetorically speaking, he has staked out a position that global warming is real and man-made and America must lead to come up with a solution. Only when faced with the opportunity to kick off that process, he’s taking a pass on the vote:

Despite stressing the issue on the stump, McCain says he won’t be in the Senate to vote on a landmark bill imposing mandatory greenhouse gases limits.

“I have not been there for a number of votes. The same thing happened in the campaign of 2000. The people of Arizona understand I’m running for president.â€

Now, Halperin is wrong. The Lieberman-Warner bill is not a landmark, in that it gives away carbon credits to polluters. The far better bill in the Congress is Ed Markey’s Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act, which sets up a 100% cap and trade auction and invests that revenue into clean energy sources, setting a target for an 85% reduction in emissions by 2050. That’s a legitimate approach to the problem.

But consider McCain, wanting desperately to be seen as mavericky maverick, yet too constrained by the needs of his base to ever step out of line. His reason for skipping the vote is that the bill doesn’t reward the nuclear power industry enough, which is right in line with Bush Republicans nationwide. In fact, as Bill Scher demonstrates, McCain has a completely incoherent environmental policy, highlighted by this complaint that there aren’t enough subsidies for the nuclear industry when he claims to oppose all subsidies.

Maybe one of his 2,876 lobbyists working on the campaign has a particular interest in getting the nuclear industry their welfare bucks. Whatever the reason, taking a walk on the vote is certainly the boldest leadership I’ve ever seen.

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