THE MISSING W….In the LA Times today, Noam Levey calls attention to John McCain’s flip-floppy record on energy issues:

McCain’s record of tackling energy policy on Capitol Hill shows little of the clear direction he says would come from a McCain White House. Instead, the Arizona senator has swerved from one position to another over the years, taking often contradictory stances on the federal government’s role in energy policy.

At times he has backed measures to ease restrictions on oil drilling off the coast and in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Other times he has voted to keep them.

He has championed standards to require that automakers make vehicles more fuel-efficient, yet opposed standards to require that utilities use less fossil fuel by generating more power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. [Etc. etc.]

It’s nice to see this kind of thing in the mainstream press. But at the risk of seeming churlish, Levey’s story is also a pretty good example of how McCain routinely gets the benefit of the doubt even when his chameleon-like record is being exposed to the light of day.

The unasked question here is why McCain’s positions change so much. The very first person quoted on this point is McCain’s own advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who says his boss is just being pragmatic: “Sen. McCain is interested in getting results.” On the other side, the best Levey could do is one guy who calls McCain’s record “sporadic” and another who says his support for subsidies “seems to contradict his record.”

That’s hard hitting stuff! The rest of the story is just a dry recitation of McCain’s record, written in a way that often makes it hard to figure out exactly what McCain’s flip-flops are, let alone why he’s changed his positions on so many things. And that’s odd, because eventually stories like these always allude darkly to interest groups that need to be appeased or donors who need to be pandered to. But not this one. There’s not even a hint of a suggestion that McCain’s motivations might be politically based. You’d have to be a considerable sleuth to put two and two together and make the connection that McCain’s policies — both the ones that have changed and the ones that haven’t — virtually always favor existing energy interests.

Without motivation, these stories just don’t stick. That motivation is usually front and center when the subject is John Kerry or Barack Obama, but it’s missing in action when the subject is John McCain. Funny that.

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