Bush says he lacks power to control rising gas prices
Admission is an about-face from his rhetoric in 2000
TVNL Comment: Notice that it is described as an "about face" and not as a "flip-flop!"
By JULIE MASON
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - With gasoline prices spiraling up just before the summer holidays, President Bush conceded Wednesday there is little he can do to help.
"I wish I could simply wave a magic wand and lower gas prices tomorrow; I'd do that," Bush told the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce legislative conference. "Unfortunately, higher gas prices are a problem that has been years in the making."
Bush repeated his call to Congress to pass a long-stalled energy bill aimed at expanding domestic oil and natural gas supplies, improving the reliability of the nation's electric power grids, and promoting fuel conservation.
But Bush's admission that he lacked the power to lower prices was a notable turnaround. Bush promised as a candidate in 2000 to pressure oil producers to increase supply and drive down prices.
"I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply," Bush said outside of Detroit in June 2000.
Bush on Monday is to meet with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the Crawford ranch and has said that energy issues will be part of the discussion.
In addition, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush has been talking with oil-producing nations about making sure affordable supplies of energy are available.
"The president has regularly brought that up in meetings he has had with producing countries, and he will continue to do so," McClellan said. "We also need to make sure that consumers are protected, that they're treated fairly during this time, as well. And we will do that."
In a recent CBS News poll, 63 percent of consumers said higher gas prices affect them "a lot." An additional 25 percent said "some."
The same poll found that 61 percent of Americans believe the price of gasoline is something a president "can do a lot about."
For Bush, that is an impression he helped reinforce when he was first running for president. In 1999, he criticized Vice President Al Gore over gas prices and said President Clinton should "jawbone OPEC" to lower prices.
Stephen Hess, a presidential expert at the Brookings Institution, said most Americans probably overestimate the power of the presidency. But he called Bush's candor "unusual."
"It has that tang of realism that you don't really expect from the White House," Hess said. "There is something almost refreshing about a president standing up there and saying, 'Gee, I don't like this any more than you do, these are complicated forces but there is not much we can do about it.'"
Gas prices were an issue a year ago, when Bush and Democrat John Kerry were wrangling on the campaign trail over who was responsible and what could be done.
At the time, Bush blamed Democrats in Congress, including Kerry, for failing to act on the energy plan, originally submitted by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2001.
Democrats have urged Bush, as an alternative, to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the nation's cache of crude held in a series of underground reservoirs along the Gulf Coast.
The SPR, which can hold 700 millions barrels of oil, has about 670 million barrels in storage.
Link: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mp ... cs/3145618