Sen. Norm Coleman finally got around to aping the latest big Republican talking point on July 3. Like Dick Cheney, John Boehner, Roy Blunt and others, he’s saying that Chinese firms, via leasing agreements with Cuba, can drill for oil closer to the United States than we can. “The Chinese are able to begin operating 90 miles off shore by working with the Cubans,” Coleman said, arguing for new offshore oil exploration.
Thing is, it’s just not true. Florida Democrat Sen. Mel Martinez says it’s “akin to urban legend,” FactCheck.org says Cheney got it wrong, and Jorge Pinon, an energy fellow with the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami, states unequivocally, “China is not drilling in Cuba’s Gulf of Mexico waters, period.” (While China is working with Cuba on oil projects, they’re all on-shore.) Even conservative Washington Post columnist George Will, whose June 5 column mentioned such drilling, later recanted, running a correction that “no Chinese company has been involved in Cuba’s oil exploration that close to the United States.”
While the GOP has shown its trademark unity in getting this factually challenged meme out, one thing Republicans can’t seem to agree on is exactly how far from our fair shores the Chinese are supposedly drilling:
Rep. Sam Graves, May 30: 40 miles
Roy Blunt, Minority Whip, June 11: 45 miles
Rep. George Radanovich: 50 miles
Minority Leader John Boehner, June 11: 60 miles
Dick Cheney, June 11: 60 miles
Rudy Giuliani, July 3: 80 miles
Sen. Norm Coleman: 90 miles
Some variations: Nancy Pfotenhauer, John McCain’s domestic policy advisor, upped the ante on June 17 and 18 TV appearances: She added Russia to the list of scary past or present Communist countries that she says are drilling closer to U.S. shores than Americans can; again, according to FactCheck.org, no country is drilling there, although it is being explored. John Sununu took to the airwaves on July 1 to say that the Cubans (no mention of China) were drilling 60 miles off the American coast.