With U.S. gas prices above the $3 level, the conservative echo chamber is in overdrive. While the Heritage Foundation warns "Obama will make you pay more at the pump" and Americans for Limited Government decries "Obama's war on energy," Brent Bozell's Media Research Center simply asks, "How does Obama plan to raise prices?" Of course, as Paul Krugman pointed out this week, stagnant production and accelerating global demand for oil as the world recovers from the 2008 economic meltdown have much more to do with price increases at the pump. That, and oilman turned President George W. Bush's utter failure to "jawbone" his friends in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia into opening the spigots.
On May 7, 2001, Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer was asked "does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?" Fleischer's infamous response made clear energy conservation was off the table for President Bush:
"That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life."
Instead, George W. Bush promised to get biblical on OPEC.
His pledge to persuade, cajole and other twist arms dated back to his first run for the White House in 1999. As oil prices rose to the then-alarming level of $30 that December, then Governor Bush said President Clinton "must jawbone OPEC members to lower prices." At a New Hampshire Republican debate the next month, Bush claimed the mantle of the Great Persuader. Contending that his days in the West Texas oil fields made him uniquely qualified for the task, Bush proclaimed:
"What I think the president ought to do is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots...And the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the price...
...I used to be in the oil business. I was little oil -- really little oil. And so I understand the -- I understand what can happen in the marketplace."
"I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply," Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, told reporters here today. "Use the capital that my administration will earn, with the Kuwaitis or the Saudis, and convince them to open up the spigot."
That November, of course, the American people were persuaded. Despite Bush's own personal record of busts and bailouts in the business, his family's close ties to Prince Bandar and the Saudi royal family, Americans must have reasoned, should count for something.
As it turned out, not so much.