Tuesday, May 6

gas attack

Hillary Clinton's proposal for a gas-tax holiday is being credited by some for breathing life back into Barack Obama's campaign and for helping to distinguish the two candidates on the issues.

In a piece for HuffPost this morning, Lawrence O'Donnell reminds us that Bill Clinton was responsible for increasing the gas tax in the first place (by 4.3 cents, aka "the Clinton nickel"). Clinton was gunning for a larger gas-tax increase, which was built into his budget plan via a controversial BTU (British thermal unit) tax aimed at fossil fuels.

It was Clinton's first year in the White House, and O'Donnell was the chief of staff for the Senate Finance Committee. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was a second-term Democratic congressman whose hopes for a spot in Clinton's cabinet had just been dashed.

"It was a real struggle, with a cliffhanger conclusion worthy of a Hollywood thriller," Richardson writes of helping to pass Clinton's tax increase, in his book Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life.

O'Donnell, who went on to become the executive producer of the political television series "The West Wing," assumes more of a "Hollywood drama" tone in his HuffPost piece today.

But is it fair to keep Billary tethered on the gas-tax issue? After all, according to Richardson, the BTU tax was one of Al Gore's ideas, not Clinton's — and the Senate killed it anyway, leaving just the Clinton nickel to impact gasoline prices, and casting Al Gore's environmental ideals into a post-(Bill) Clinton future.

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