“The Republicans won’t budge on Energy and Climate Legislation,” said Axelrod.
“We don’t have the votes for cap-and-trade,” said Jarrett.
“It’s a *&#*#ing lost *@!*^ing cause,” echoed Rahm.
These words replay in the president’s head as he makes his way along the colonnade from the frenzied Oval Office. Columns cast narrow bars of shade onto the walkway, piercing tender sunlight with frigid gloom. Warm, cool, warm, cool. Finally, the president steps softly into the Rose Garden, welcomed by unhindered, absolute warmth. Seeking solace from legislative matters, he approaches the White House’s most sturdy olive tree. In a moment of silent scholasticism he studies the old tree’s curves, its sturdy boughs and the way the light plays upon its shy green leaves. And then, reaching carefully, he plucks a large olive branch from the tree. He holds it in his large hands and examines it.
“A peace offering,” he thinks, “I shall present a nuclear power plan to the Republicans.” So, on Feb. 16, President Obama offered the substantial olive branch to Republicans. He explained his drastic plan to “break ground on the first new nuclear plant in our country in three decades.” Infuriating his environmental base, but hoping for encouragement and support from nuclear-loving Republicans, Obama was instead met with hostility from both sides. Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina called the decision “spectacularly misguided.” Greenpeace issued a statement saying that the plan is “a dirty and dangerous distraction from the clean energy future the president promised America.”
Disheartened at the doggedness of Republicans and upset at the Democratic backlash, Obama quit the Oval Office again, this time, with a frustrated gait. The shade cast by the colonnades was longer. Hot, cool, hot, cool. When he stepped into the Rose Garden, the olive tree appeared weaker, with fewer branches, its stature diminished.
The president approached hurriedly, reached high and plucked an even larger olive branch from the tree. He held it in his large hands and examined it.
A larger peace offering,” he thinks, “I shall offer the Republicans an offshore drilling proposal.” So, on March 31, President Obama offered the enormous olive branch to the Republicans. He explained, “Today we’re announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration … in the mid and south Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.” Again expecting support, the president was met with criticism. Republican Rep. John Boehner decried the act as not enough, saying, “It’s long past time for this Administration to stop delaying American energy production off all our shores.” The folks at Greenpeace were none too happy either, musing, “Is this President Obama’s clean energy plan or Palin’s ‘drill, baby, drill’ campaign?”
The shadows of the columns are stretched so long now. On the walk to the Rose Garden, sunlight is the exception, not the rule. The olive tree is impossibly feeble; another branch of appeasement will bring the whole thing down and the hopes of comprehensive energy and climate reform with it. Obama observes the poor demeanor of the tree; he empathizes with the wrecked thing. Suddenly he has a moment of enlightenment: Republican votes cannot be bought with meager olive branches; Republicans want the whole fucking tree, roots and all. In the case of an energy bill, it means opening all offshore drilling, it means pretending that “clean” coal is actually clean and it means setting a carbon cap above projected emission levels. Peace offerings did not produce a single Republican vote for Health Care Reform and they won’t for Energy and Climate. It’s time to focus on votes that can be picked up, not ones he must reach for.