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Gulf Oil Spill Silences Cries Of 'Drill, Baby, Drill'

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In the wake of the massive Gulf Coast oil spill, Republicans have been either staying quiet about or actively backing away from "drill, baby, drill," the gung-ho energy policy mantra that was so popular during the 2008 election.

Last week, The New York Times reported that many prominent Republicans, including RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who's often credited with coining the phrase "drill, baby, drill," and Sarah Palin, were slow to respond to the spill. On April 30, Palin posted her response to the spill on her Facebook page, and said:

I repeat the slogan "drill here, drill now" not out of naiveté or disregard for the tragic consequences of oil spills - my family and my state and I know firsthand those consequences.

She did not, however, repeat the "drill, baby, drill" slogan.

This week, some GOPers have actively been distancing themselves from the slogan. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) told The Hill that "drill, baby, drill" "was not a Senate Republican phrase" and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) said "I don't know about the slogan. The slogan was what, two, three years ago and basically we had a lot of opposition to it anyway." Basically.

Meanwhile, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R) responded to a question about his drilling stance this way:

If we can do what I hope we can do in Alabama to mitigate any potential environmental damage here, especially in our estuaries, then I will have a completely different attitude about whether or not it is controllable after something this dramatic happens.

His deliberate statement is a far cry from what he said about drilling in 2008: "It is astonishing to me that Congress would deliberately fail to act on these proposals because of fear they are so popular with the American people that they would actually pass."

Two other Republican governors, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, have come out with reconsidered stances on offshore drilling since the spill.

One GOPer who hasn't wavered on drilling is Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who attended a drilling-industry conference in Houston this week (good timing, that), and said he does not want to delay plans to start drilling off the coast of Virginia. "What we do as Americans is we find out what went wrong and how can we do things better," McDonnell told The Washington Post. Not exactly campaign ad material.

If Americans continue to sour on drilling, will we ever hear that dulcet phrase again? Who knows, baby, who knows?

About The Author

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Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com