Adviser Defends McCain's Shift on Offshore Drilling

When John McCain this week called for an end to the federal ban on offshore drilling, the Arizona senator wasn't flip-flopping, says senior campaign adviser Charlie Black: He was acknowledging the "great crisis in energy" facing the country.

"It's an economic crisis for the average American, who are paying triple what they paid for gasoline only a couple of years ago," Black tells NPR's Robert Siegel.

But just a month ago, when McCain was asked about offshore drilling during a campaign stop in Wisconsin, the presumptive Republican nominee noted that such resources would take years to develop, and that the U.S. should instead focus on alternative energy sources. Black says McCain's new stance represents weeks of talks with policy advisers on how to bring energy security and energy independence to the U.S.

"So it's not a change in his position as much as a new challenge to America," Black says. He adds that McCain "has always said that offshore drilling should be up to the states" and not the federal government.

McCain on the Economy

In a recent op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove argued that both McCain and his Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, have displayed a "disturbing animus" toward free markets. Black rejects Rove's argument, saying that McCain is a populist who believes in free markets, limited government and the free enterprise system to produce jobs and prosperity.

"He does believe — as Teddy Roosevelt did — that you do need government there for some oversight and some regulation to avoid excess," Black said.

Barring Lobbyists from the Campaign

Have lobbyists been vilified in this campaign? No doubt about it, Black says.

Black himself is a recently retired lobbyist, who says he now volunteers for the McCain campaign. In mid-May, the McCain camp barred registered lobbyists from its staff and volunteer lists after at least five Washington lobbyists left his campaign. It was an embarrassment for a politician who often has prided himself on scorning the insider nature of Washington.

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