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“Mighty-Mouse” has become sinister, and “Fritz” has become an embarrassment: Both are hollow shadows of what the Democratic Party leadership once was. “Mighty-Mouse,” otherwise known as Tom Daschle, has resorted to procedural intrigue to prevent the Senate majority from voting to allow drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. “Fritz” Hollings, D-S.C., has apparently gone completely bananas.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Hollings made so many factual errors and mis-statements that his competence – and the competence of his staff – must be questioned. Hollings blamed Bush for the Sept. 11 attacks because Bush allowed Enron to have offshore subsidiaries like those Osama bin Laden might have used to transfer money. Excuse me?

Hollings is to be pitied. The Democratic leadership would be well advised to put a cork in his spout.

“Mighty-Mouse,” on the other hand, is not to be pitied. He should be exposed for the mild-mannered-menace he is. His anti-ANWR position reveals just how much he is indebted to the environmental extremists who pull his strings.

Daschle says we can’t drill our way out of dependence upon foreign oil. He’s wrong. He says we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil by increasing the miles-per-gallon regulations by only three miles per gallon. Even if this statement were true, the costs required would be unacceptable.

ANWR will produce at least one million barrels of oil per day when fully functional. This would replace the amount that we now import from Iraq. If we develop ANWR, it is certainly possible that a few bugs could be squashed. If we increase the miles-per-gallon requirement, as Daschle prefers, it is an absolute fact that a measurable number of human beings will die as the result.

Better mileage requires lighter vehicles. Every increase in mileage requirements has resulted in a higher death rate from vehicle crashes. The market now provides a good balance in the vehicles that are available. People who want better mileage can have it. Those who want the safety of a larger vehicle can have it. Daschle would rather see people denied the choice, and forced into smaller, more dangerous vehicles, than to risk a few bugs that might be inconvenienced in ANWR.

Actually, the bugs in ANWR, as well as the other wildlife, would not likely be squashed or even inconvenienced. Technology is such that drilling, pumping, and transporting the badly-needed oil, would hardly be noticed by ANWR’s inhabitants. The Clinton-Gore Department of Energy said as much in a report produced in 1999.

But for “Mighty-Mouse,” the issue isn’t about energy security. It isn’t about the environment. It is about not disappointing the horde of environmental extremists who see him as their champion – now that Gore is no longer able to deliver.

The extremes to which “Mighty-Mouse” has maneuvered in order to deliver for his special-interest constituency, are remarkable. The Senate Energy Committee had the president’s energy package ready for passage – a proposal which passed the House of Representatives with the ANWR drilling provision.

As is his prerogative as Majority Leader, Daschle chose to ignore the Committee bill, and bring his own energy bill to the Senate floor, bypassing the Energy Committee altogether. Daschle’s bill does not include ANWR drilling.

Republicans will have to offer an amendment to drill ANWR, for which there are enough votes for passage. Daschle has promised a filibuster. Senate rules require 60 votes to end a filibuster. There are not yet 60 votes for ANWR drilling.

So “Mighty-Mouse,” using procedure rather than persuasion, is trying to defy the will of the majority, ignore the recent polls which show that more Americans than not, approve of drilling in ANWR, ignore the wishes of the hundreds of thousands of people represented by the signers of this letter, and keep his special-interest cronies pouring money and support to the Democratic Party.

It is a sad day when the once-proud Democratic Party has to rely on leaders who resort to procedural intrigue and incompetent hysteria to advance its cause. The Democratic Party faithful, and the American people, deserve much better.

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