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A Nancy Pelosi confidant hits hard at Hillary Clinton's gas-tax gambit

May 5, 2008 |  2:27 pm

Why did we take notice when Rep. George Miller, a Democrat from the Bay Area, issued a release today ridiculing the gas-tax holiday plan that Hillary Clinton and her crew not only are promoting but are touting as a boon to them in their battle with Barack Obama?

Rep. George Miller of Northern California who is closely linked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has nothing good to say about the gas-tax holiday plan offered by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Because Miller is the longtime friend and ally of the highest-ranking Democrat in the land, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who is second in the presidential succession line after the vice president).

Pelosi has chosen not to officially make a pick yet between Obama and Clinton. But when Miller came out for Obama back in early January, it was widely assumed he did so with Pelosi's tacit approval.

NBC Deputy Political Director Mark Murray wrote at the time: "This is perhaps the closest thing to getting a Nancy Pelosi endorsement as you can come without actually getting it. Miller is incredibly close with her politically. He wouldn't be doing this without her consent of sorts."

We wonder if Pelosi also was nodding her head over the release from Miller (a onetime chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee) that lambastes the call by Clinton (as well as John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee) for suspending the federal gasoline tax through the summer.

Miller's comments are notable not only for the blunt criticism one Democrat directs at another party member -- in so many words, he calls Clinton a purveyor of snake oil -- but also for the intimidation charge ...

.... he broaches at the end of the release. Here are the quotes Miller sent out in the missive:

“The call by Sens. Clinton and McCain to temporarily suspend the federal tax on gasoline is a short-sighted stunt that will hurt consumers and do nothing to reduce the price of gas.

“American consumers and our economy need a real solution to the energy crisis, not an empty trick. You can run cars on a lot of different fuels, but snake oil isn’t one of them.

“In the hopes of winning votes, the Senators are preying on consumers’ justified anxiety about the economy without offering a solution to their real problems. There’s nothing in our history to indicate that oil companies will pass on any savings to the consumer. So despite the McCain and Clinton gas tax holiday, the price at the pump will continue to rise and oil companies will take even more of the profit.

“My constituents are reeling from the highest gas prices in the country. But they understand that we can only break the oil chokehold and bring prices down by investing in highways and mass transit, new technology, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

“Siphoning off the political energy from these necessary steps to focus instead on a plan that some political consultants favor is cynical politics. Taking a break from the federal gas tax and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it produces is harmful to the long-term economic well-being of our country.

“Sen. Clinton knows it is not easy to pass a windfall profits tax on oil companies. We have been trying to rein in record oil profits for years, and the House has repeatedly passed legislation to roll unjustified federal oil subsidies and invest instead in renewable energy -– but President Bush and Senate Republicans have blocked us. Some of the subsidies we are trying to eliminate started under President Bill Clinton’s administration.

“Sen. Clinton is trying to intimidate members of Congress into validating her bad policy prescriptions. Congress should reject her and Sen. McCain’s idea. Relief from soaring gas prices will only come from smart investments and real change in our energy policy.”

The Clinton campaign, for its part, continued to play what it sees as a winning hand, airing an ad in Indiana and North Carolina on the eve of their Tuesday primaries that laments Obama's opposition to suspending the gas tax.

It begins with an announcer intoning: "What has happened to Barack Obama? ... He is attacking Hillary’s plan to give you a break on gas prices because he doesn’t have one."

The ad, and a closing spot from Obama's campaign, can be checked out here.

Also, remarks from Clinton on the trail today about the issue can be viewed below.

-- Don Frederick

Photo: Associated Press