Clinton calls Bush's oil efforts "pathetic"

See how the White House spins.


Tim Grieve
January 16, 2008 7:25PM (UTC)

When George W. Bush was running for president, he called on Bill Clinton to "jawbone OPEC members" to bring down the price of oil. With a gallon of unleaded going for more than $3 now, Hillary Clinton returned the favor during Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate.

"President Bush is over in the Gulf now begging the Saudis and others to drop the price of oil," Clinton said. "How pathetic."

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Is it?

You be the judge.

Here's White House press secretary Dana Perino, trying to put the sunniest spin she could on Bush's talk with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Tuesday night.

Perino: This morning, I asked the president if he did bring up the issue of high oil prices in the United States. He did bring that up with the king. He says that the king says that he understands the situation. He's worried about high oil prices and how they can negatively affect economies around the world. The president said there's a hope that as a result of these conversations that OPEC would be encouraged to authorize an increase production. I don't have a lot more on that conversation. Obviously these are private conversations; we are reluctant to provide a readout of them, but I provided you what I could.

Reporter: Who was hopeful that OPEC could authorize --

Perino: The president.

Reporter: Oh, the president -- he would -- yes.

Perino: The president reiterated the issue of there being tight supply and very high and rising demand, not just in America, but around the world, especially in India and China. This is not a situation that's going to be solved overnight, and that's why on a parallel track the president has been pursuing aggressively alternative and renewable forms of energy, including battery technology for electric vehicles, as well as on the electricity side of things -- pushing for nuclear power and also cellulosic ethanol, those two issues ...

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Reporter: Dana, you just said that the -- that as a result of the conversations, OPEC would be encouraged to increase oil production --

Perino: I said there is a hope.

Reporter: "There is a hope" -- OK, I'm sorry.

Reporter: Dana, I didn't hear what you just said.

Perino: I said there is a hope that as a result of these conversations, that OPEC may be encouraged to authorize an increase in production to help deal with the tight supply problems in this time when we have growing economies across the world, especially in China.

Reporter: Isn't that what the president said yesterday, that he was going to ask him, and he hoped that they would?

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Perino: Yes, that's what -- the president said that he was going to bring it up with the king, and he did. And I'm not going to provide additional information. This -- I was reluctant to read out the meeting. It was a private meeting between the president and the king of Saudi Arabia. So I provided you what I can.

Reporter: OK. I just was -- I just wanted to clarify. I was just wondering whether the president was reflecting and he thought the king agreed in any way?

Perino: No, that's -- remember, I said, "we hope that as a result" -- and by the "we" I meant the president and the administration.

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Reporter: But you can't say what the basis of that hope is, whether there was some --

Perino: No, I think that if you --

Reporter: -- indication in the conversation from the king's point of view?

Perino: As I said, the president said that the king says he understands that the high price of oil can negatively affect economies around the world, and that when economies aren't growing as fast as they have been, then other economies are going to suffer. So it's -- the president believes it's in everyone's interests to have adequate supplies of oil to deal with the amount of demand, but at the same time, he's very insistent that we continue to push for alternative and renewable forms of energy, as well as increased efficiency. As we've just signed the bill that's -- he signed the bill three weeks ago to increase CAFE standards on passenger cars; he's already done that twice for SUVs and light trucks. We have a proposal for a third increase. So there's multiple tracks that this has to move on.

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Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

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2008 Elections George W. Bush Hillary Rodham Clinton War Room

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