Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact on the gasoline price blame game: 2012 edition

You're paying more to fill up your tank, and it's President Barack Obama's fault.

That's the refrain echoing across the Republican campaign trail, with Mitt Romney blaming the president for not developing more domestic sources of oil and Rick Santorum saying it's Obama's inaction in the Middle East that has led to the price spike. Newt Gingrich just calls Obama "anti-American" and promises cheaper gasoline when he's in the White House.

Never mind that industry experts say they're breathing fumes.

"It's not really any president's fault that gas prices go up or down. It has more to do with fundamentals — supply and demand," said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at gasbuddy.com, a collection of local websites that helps drivers find low prices.

Geopolitical forces on the other side of the world are a major price driver, as is the state of the global economy. Energy technology plays a role, too.

But none of that resonates as well as the political gas price blame game.

The tradition dates back to the 1970s, said John Kingston, global director of news for the energy publication Platts.

Until then, oil prices had remained relatively stable. But in 1973 an Arab oil embargo forced President Richard Nixon to explain why prices shot up to 55 cents a gallon.

Jimmy Carter was the unlucky occupant of the White House during the Iranian revolution in 1979. The fall of the shah led to a drop in oil production in Iran. Inflation was rampant, and it added up to nearly doubled U.S. prices and long lines at gas stations.

Approaching the election in 1980, Carter's approval rating plummeted to 26 percent. Attacks came from all sides. Sen. Edward Kennedy, who challenged Carter in the Democratic primary, pledged to voters to drive down prices.

"I would use the full power and influence of the White House to get a rollback in some areas," Kennedy said, estimating he could win a 10- or 11-cent price cut at the pump.

Ronald Reagan, who went on to take the White House, blamed Carter for ignoring America's own resources.

"For three years and eight months, Mr. Carter has led us to believe that there is an acute shortage of energy resources in this country," Reagan said two months before defeating Carter. "The truth is America has an abundance of energy. But the policies of this administration consistently discourage its discovery and production."

Reagan in 1980 sounds a bit like Romney in 2012.

"I can cut through the baloney … and just tell him, 'Mr. President, open up drilling in the gulf, open up drilling in ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). Open up drilling in continental shelf, drill in North Dakota, drill in Oklahoma and Texas,' " Romney said earlier this month.

The more-domestic-drilling line is "a familiar thing for Republicans to throw at Democrats," Kingston said.

What's the tried and true Democratic attack on Republicans?

"They're too close to the oil companies," Kingston said.

Those both sound like pretty good slogans. (Remember "Drill, baby, drill?") Short, simple and oblivious to economic complexity.

"It's really complex to explain to people how energy markets work. So in campaigns people are always looking for the bumper sticker," said Jay Hakes, former director of the Energy Information Administration under President Bill Clinton and author of the book A Declaration of Energy Independence.

But easy layups can clank off the rim.

"There's a risk," Hakes said. "There's a point at which you could be insulting the intelligence of the voters. I think most voters have some understanding of markets … and (blaming the president for prices) can sort of give the impression that the candidate doesn't understand the oil market."

Look at 1999. Early that year, oil prices were at their lowest ever when adjusted for inflation. Gasoline bottomed out at 95 cents a gallon.

But by the fall of 2000, the price had climbed to $1.55. Was it Clinton's fault? No, Kingston said.

"That really was the first time you were starting to see Chinese demand increase and other Third World demand increase," he said. "It was the first time you were starting to see the supply getting squeezed."

Here's what the politicians were saying:

"Thanks to the failed energy policies of the Clinton-Gore administration, gas prices are skyrocketing," said Republican Dick Armey, House majority leader at the time.

George W. Bush took to reading from Al Gore's book, written eight years earlier.

"He writes in a book that we ought to have higher fuel prices, and now that he's running for president, and there's higher fuel prices, he seems to be changing his tune," Bush said in June 2000.

Gore's campaign spokesman took shots at Bush's oil industry ties.

"Voters and motorists are probably directing their ire at the people who put the prices on the pumps, and Bush is joined at the hip with the oil industry," Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway said.

Not a word about China.

Now here we are in 2012, with the election eight months away and gallon of regular unleaded setting us back $3.80 a gallon on average.

Obama, with the bull's-eye on his back, has been steadfastly defending his energy policy, which he describes as "all of the above," and subtly deflecting blame.

"Anybody who says we can get gas down to two bucks a gallon just isn't telling the truth," he said this month in Orlando.

Surely, as a candidate, Obama also told voters that presidents don't control gas prices. Right? Decide for yourself.

"Here in Ohio," then Sen. Obama said at a campaign stop in 2008, "you're paying nearly $3.70 a gallon for gas — 2½ times what it cost when President Bush took office."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18