Editor”s Note: An invitation to debate for Anne Northup

Jul 2, 2008 at 1:05 am

Apparently I’m running for Congress. 

That is the subtext of an e-mail blast issued last week by the campaign of Republican Anne Northup, who is challenging 3rd District Rep. John Yarmuth for his seat, the one she held for a decade prior to being upset in 2006. 

The six-paragraph mailer is an extraordinary document for a few reasons. First, it is a clumsy personal attack on a newspaper editor by a purportedly serious congressional candidate, and that is inherently strange. Second, the mailer only mentioned her actual opponent once, by his last name, instead focusing Northup’s outrage over a “liberal, elitist, do-nothing view on energy” squarely on me, a person who is not currently her opponent. Third, somewhat more predictably, the mailer took last week’s Editor’s Note dramatically out of context, providing phrases here and there to show, quite cleverly, that I am a Liberal Devil. 

Surprisingly, the mailer missed a key point I’d attempted to make, that I agree with Northup about drilling for oil on American soil. I’m not one to make points lightly, but apparently I buried that one. 

To wit, the mailer begins with this: 

“Either someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning or Yarmuth Weekly … ahem … LEO Weekly has something against using American energy to dig ourselves out of the gas crunch.” 

I can only suppose Northup’s campaign staff was so fed-up with my “vulgar, rage-filled editorial — better yet, temper tantrum,” as it was called, that they couldn’t make it to the end. That’s where I wrote this: 

“And why not go ahead and drill our own reserves? It is the zenith of American arrogance and empiricism to expect the rest of the world to provide our oil fix, and in fact to go to war for it.” 

There it is. Pretty direct, I’d say. 

So what was the point of this mailer, you may wonder? To scare up some signatures on a petition the Northup campaign is floating that asks Congress and Yarmuth to authorize further oil exploration on American soil. And they said I have a do-nothing approach. 

The real question is, where do we go from here, Anne — and I don’t mean the royal we, but you and me? Your e-mail blast was understandably brief and bereft of context — I have 800 words a week to elucidate my positions, and the mailer was probably half that, if not less. I am sympathetic: Being 17 points down in the polls is probably a little frustrating. I forgive you for thrusting me into this campaign to exploit your intellectually dishonest position on lowering gas prices, and I’ll pardon your swing at me for insulting “the countless Americans that couldn’t afford that summer vacation” by suggesting that our gas prices are lowest of any industrialized country in our world. Tragic, I know. 

That is why I’d like to offer you the opportunity to publicly debate me on the issues of gas prices, oil exploration and American energy policy. You would have a chance to explain exactly how you, as a potential member of the minority party of Congress, would be able to lower the price of gas in Louisville, as you’ve insinuated you would. You see, I believe you’re lying to people, trying to manipulate them into thinking that you’re the cheap-gas candidate, and that bothers me. 

We could discuss what the Alliance to Save Energy said Monday, that if people drive 5 percent less, obey the speed limit and properly inflate their tires, we could save as much as 1.3 million barrels of oil per day — almost double what we would get by drilling in Alaska’s Arctic Natural Wildlife Reserve, according to the Bush administration’s Energy Information Administration. That seems easy, and it would have an immediate appreciable effect, unlike two decades of oil exploration and refining for what John McCain said last week would be a minimal economic outcome at the pump, maybe a few cents on the dollar. 

And lest you assume, that conservation group is backed not only by environmentalists but also by the oil and auto industries — including the American Petroleum Institute. I know you voted with them every time you could in Congress, particularly when it came to deciding whether auto companies should have to improve fuel efficiency standards. 

But these days they’re OK with pushing a little conservation — also the message of my column that you so harshly condemned last week. Why are you still holding out? 

Have your campaign call me with your preferences about when and where to debate and I’ll make the arrangements. My only requests are that it be free and open to the public, and that you drive the speed limit on your way there. 

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