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CBS 'Early Show' Hits Obama from Left on Offshore Drilling

Introducing a segment on Thursday's CBS Early Show about President Obama's decision to open up some new areas to offshore oil drilling, fill-in co-host Jeff Glor warned that some of Obama's "closest allies are especially unhappy." In a report that followed, White House correspondent Bill Plante noted "Environmental groups are disappointed."

However, Plante also touted the idea that the move could help pass unpopular cap and trade legislation, a long-held liberal goal: "Many in Washington see this as a strategy to win Republican support for a climate bill aimed at slowing global warming." He later concluded: "The conventional political wisdom is that this is not the time to have another rancorous nasty debate, like the one over health care, on a climate change bill. But the betting here is that the President's energy policy may make it easier to have that debate."

At the top of the show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez proclaimed: "President Obama's controversial offshore drilling proposal is making big waves. Critics say the risks are obvious, but not the rewards." In a discussion with CBS political analyst John Dickerson after Plante's report, she did little to hide her displeasure with the proposal: "Let's establish right off the bat that this will not - not even remotely free us from our dependence on foreign oil." Dickerson agreed: "You're exactly right."

At the same time, Rodriguez wondered why Republicans were not on board with the decision: "You would think that Republicans, the 'Drill, Baby, Drill' crowd, would be ecstatic over this. This is something they want. Why didn't they seem too overwhelmed?" Dickerson explained: "this is not a drill everywhere plan, it's quite limited, and that's why their support for him has been limited." Rodriguez replied: "Still, it's still a step in their direction, a step to the Right."

Maggie Rodriguez and John Dickerson, CBS Rodriguez then fretted if that supposed "step to the Right" would hurt Obama with the Left: "Is he doing that at the risk of alienating his Democratic base?" Dickerson shared her concern: "You're right, it is a step to the Right and the Democratic base and progressives are angry with him. Some of the Democratic senators were quite fulsome in their denunciation of this plan."

However, Dickerson saw the political upside: "What he's doing...has three political benefits. He looks like a bipartisan president again...That might actually get a deal on this climate legislation. And if it doesn't, he then can call Republican's bluff and say 'I went in your direction and now you've got to take my own views.'" Rodriguez optimistically concluded: "as we usually see when something is new, there's a lot of anger on both sides. But maybe in the end, in the long term, it will turn out to be a positive for the President."

Here is a full transcript of Rodriguez's discussion with Dickerson:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Also this morning in Washington, CBS News political analyst John Dickerson. John, good morning. JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: Let's establish right off the bat that this will not - not even remotely free us from our dependence on foreign oil.

DICKERSON: You're exactly right. In fact, these leases in Virginia won't even start until 2012. But the President makes the case that while opening up this exploration won't rid us of our dependence on foreign oil, that combined with a more comprehensive energy approach, it might move America in that direction.

RODRIGUEZ: You would think that Republicans, the 'Drill, Baby, Drill' crowd, would be ecstatic over this. This is something they want. Why didn't they seem too overwhelmed?

DICKERSON: That's right. The praise for the President was muted at best because - the reason they didn't embrace it is because the President is not fully embracing their 'Drill, Baby, Drill' approach. And he argued in the last campaign, that that was, by itself, not enough to solve America's energy problems. And in this case he's cordoned off lots of areas north of Delaware and large parts of Florida and the west coast. He's also exempted Bristol Bay in Alaska. So this is not a drill everywhere plan, it's quite limited, and that's why their support for him has been limited.

RODRIGUEZ: Still, it's still a step in their direction, a step to the Right. Is he doing that at the risk of alienating his Democratic base?

DICKERSON: You're right, it is a step to the Right and the Democratic base and progressives are angry with him. Some of the Democratic senators were quite fulsome in their denunciation of this plan. What he's doing is sort of - has three political benefits. He looks like a bipartisan president again after this very contentious fight over health care and these appointments that were made when the Senate went out of town, that's gotten him a lot of grief from Republicans. Now some Republicans are saying this is an attempt to build that bipartisanship back. That might actually get a deal on this climate legislation. And if it doesn't, he then can call Republican's bluff-

RODRIGUEZ: Right, right.

DICKERSON: -and say 'I went in your direction and now you've got to take my own views.'

RODRIGUEZ: Right, so in the short term, as we usually see when something is new, there's a lot of anger on both sides. But maybe in the end, in the long term, it will turn out to be a positive for the President.

DICKERSON: You're right. And we look at the Democrats who are angry at the moment, but the question is will they be with him when this legislation comes up in the spring, if it does come up in the spring. So right now there's a lot of explosive talk, but we'll see where they really are in the end.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, John. John Dickerson, thanks a lot.

DICKERSON: Thanks, Maggie.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.