Obama, conservative activist hold alternative energy talks
RENO - Democrat Barack Obama met yesterday with Texas oil baron and longtime conservative activist T. Boone Pickens to discuss strategies for developing alternative energy.
The presidential hopeful praised Pickens, a native of Oklahoma, as a "legendary entrepreneur" and deflected a question about the billionaire's role in helping to fund a television ad campaign that undermined John F. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee.
"You know, he's got a longer track record than that," Obama told reporters when asked about Pickens's association with the ads by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Pickens spent $3 million to help bankroll the Swift Boat organization, a group tied to supporters of President Bush that ran television ads questioning Kerry's record as a swift boat commander during the Vietnam War. The ads were believed to have damaged Kerry in several battleground states, contributing to his narrow loss to Bush.
Today, Pickens is bankrolling a much different kind of campaign. A critic of US dependence on oil and a champion of wind power and other alternative energy forms, he has vowed to spend $58 million to promote his "Pickens Plan," which calls for the United States to generate 22 percent of its electricity through wind and other sources.
Pickens met with McCain in Colorado last week to discuss his plan and requested a similar meeting with Obama.
McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, visited the Orange County Emergency Operations Center near Orlando shortly after flying from Long Beach, Calif.
Speaking to a pool of reporters, he was optimistic local and federal officials will work together if the storm strikes.
"The good news is, obviously, no state is better prepared or organized to deal with whatever comes this way than the state of Florida," McCain said after his briefing.
McCain said he hoped the storm wouldn't permanently hurt Central Florida's tourism industry, which includes theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios.
"You'll be in our thoughts and prayers," he told local officials.
McCain has long criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency's reaction to Hurricane Katrina, which inundated New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast, blaming poor leadership in the storm's aftermath.
Polls show McCain and Democratic rival Barack Obama in a tight race in Florida, with the contest within the margin of error despite Obama spending millions of dollars on television advertising.
McCain was scheduled to speak in Orlando today to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Obama was scheduled to speak tomorrow, followed by President Bush on Wednesday.
The storm canceled a McCain fund-raiser in Miami last night. McCain said the move was made out of "an overabundance of caution."