There was no shortage of villains during a McCain campaign conference call on energy policy Monday morning. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, President Bush, Dick Cheney, and Jimmy Carter were all assigned various degrees of blame for the current price of fuel.
But the most unlikely recipient of mockery may have been Rep. Eric Cantor, a McCain surrogate on the candidate's VP shortlist.
Asked by a reporter to assess the failures of the Bush administration in weaning the nation off foreign oil following September 11, McCain's economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, shot back that the problem was "three decades of bipartisan failure." From there, he ripped into Obama for supporting the 2005 Energy Act, which he described as "subsidies for big oil."
"John McCain recognized that is not a path forward," said Holtz-Eakin. "He voted against that bill. We need people who understand that and not necessarily toe the party line but do the right thing for the American people."
There was, however, one small problem. On the line was Cantor who, as the Obama campaign pointed out even before the call commenced, had voted in favor of that very same energy bill.
Of course, surrogates never have identical voting records as the candidates they support. And, as a consequence, politically awkward situations frequently bubble up to the electoral surface. On Sunday, for example, Sen. John Kerry was tasked with defending Obama's decision to allow off-shore drilling as a compromise component to a new energy bill, when the Massachusetts Democrat himself has spoken out vehemently against such a practice. On Monday, meanwhile, the McCain campaign and the RNC took Obama to task for touting the price-saving benefits of having one's tires fully inflated, even though such prominent McCain surrogates like Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Gov. Charlie Christ both support tire efficiency.
It is rare, however, for a surrogate to be blindsided by personally laced criticism like the kind Holt-Eakin used on Monday (one must presume that Holtz-Eakin sees Cantor's support of the energy bill -- like Obama's -- as driven by political expediency and wrong for the American public). Should Cantor actually end up on the McCain ticket - (he refused to elaborate on any discussions he is having with the Senator) it seems likely that he will have to disavow his 2005 vote.