by Jim Nintzel
The Conservatives for Congress Ad
The actual exchange between Congresswoman Giffords and Gen. David Petraeus
The Conservatives for Congress Committee that helped carry Republican Jesse Kelly to victory in Congressional District 8 in last month’s primary has stopped airing a TV ad attacking Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The ad pulled short snippets from an exchange between Giffords and Army Gen. David Petraeus during an committee hearing in which Giffords questioned Petraeus about efforts to move the Pentagon away from oil use and toward alternative energy sources such as solar and wind.
The ad sought to portray Giffords as an airheaded hippie who is more worried about solar-powered streetlights than winning the war in Afghanistan.
Steve Christy, chairman of the Conservatives for Congress Committee, says Giffords demonstrated “a complete disconnect from the War on Terror…. It seemed to highlight and emphasize where we feel the voters of CD8 are regarding her being out of the mainstream of what people in the district are really feeling and thinking. And it also appeared as if she were pandering to the environmentalist groups that pressuring her for their agenda.”
But it wasn’t environmentalists that came to Giffords defense last week: It was veterans who say the Pentagon needs to move to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
Among those speaking out: retired Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, the former commander of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, who says that “energy dependence and climate change are not only national security and international security issues, but issues that impact our young men and young women who so proudly serve.”
Seip argues that reducing dependence on oil and becoming more energy efficient allows the military “in the long run, to reduce the number of convoys that have to transit a very hostile and dangerous part of the world there, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Less convoys mean less soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that have to protect those convoys, which means less opportunities for our enemies to attack our young men and women.”
Seip praises Giffords’ work to help the military move toward energy independence. Under his command, D-M moved toward using solar power for base housing. He says D-M’s Soaring Heights community will get 75 percent of its energy from solar, which Seip called “the equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the road or planting over 300,000 trees.”
Seip adds that the Conservatives for Congress Commitee “missed the mark” with the TV ad.
“They not only owe (Giffords) an apology,” he says. “They owe the men and women in the leadership of our military an apology for misrepresenting what is a very important issue.”
Christy, who sold his Tucson auto dealership in 2007 and now is getting involved in politics, says backers of the Conservatives for Congress “respect and admire” Seip’s service but they disagree with his position.
“We recognize there are sincere military patriots … that carry different points of view of what our priorities should be in national and international security,” Christy says.
As to the underlying question of whether the military should try to move to alternative energy sources, Christy says the nation just can’t afford it.
“In a perfect world, where there’s no terror, where people aren’t trying to kill Americans, where American lives aren’t being put on the line, when we don’t have a complete breakdown of any kind of rational discussion over religion, yeah, that might be nice discussion to have after a half dozen or a dozen or two dozen topics are addressed first,” he says. “It seems to be a luxury item.”
But Seip says it’s not a luxury item—it’s a vital step to take because right now, the dollars the United States spends on oil end ups in the hands of America’s enemies.
“This is the first war since the Civil War that we, the American people, have been funding both sides,” Seip says.
Christy says he agrees that the United States should import less oil—but the real solution to that is drilling more domestic oil.
“We have plenty of oil here—offshore, onshore, it can be drilled and refined if that were a part of the national agenda, which is definitely not the case today.”
That brought a sharp retort from Rodd McLeod, campaign manager for Team Giffords: "Our soldiers are dying protecting fuel resupply convoys in Afghanistan, and it doesn't matter if that fuel comes from Russia, Alaska or Venezuela. If Christy doesn't respect General Petraeus enough to endorse his policy to reduce fuel consumption, he should listen to General Seip, who was the commander at DM—reducing our fuel use saves American lives."
The ad was off the air by the end of last week, but Christy says that’s because Conservatives for Congress had only planned a small buy, not because of any demands that the ad be yanked.
Kelly, meanwhile, sidestepped the opportunity to engage in a battle that’s being carried by his surrogates. Asked whether he supported Giffords’ legislation, Kelly emailed a non-committal statement—“The U.S. military and the American economy should both be powered by the most affordable form of energy available from our abundant domestic resources”—and declined to elaborate on his position.
In the past, Kelly has called for opening more federal lands to oil drilling and less regulation of oil companies. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that spilled nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year, Kelly said that the Obama administration’s deal with BP to set aside $20 billion for oil relief efforts amounted to “shakedown” of the oil company.
Kelly added that he was disappointed that Congressman Joe Barton of Texas, who apologized to BP after it agreed to set up the $2 billion fund, was pressured by GOP leaders to retract his apology.