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April 20, 2004
Woodward Says No Secret Oil Deal, Suggests Kerry Learn to Read

After skimming Bob Woodward's new book, "Path to War," Democrats led by John Kerry have charged that the Bush administration concocted a secret deal with the Saudi royal family to lower oil prices prior to the election. Kerry ranted about the subject repeatedly over the past couple of days. But the White House, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, and even Bob Woodward himself say that his book never made that claim:

The charge that Saudi Arabia made a secret pact with President Bush to lower gasoline prices in time to help him in the November presidential election was denied Monday by the White House, the Saudi ambassador to the United States -- and even by journalist Bob Woodward, who raised the specter of such a quid pro quo in a book released Monday.

"I don't say there's a secret deal or any collaboration on this," Woodward told CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday. "What I say in the book is that the Saudis ... hoped to keep oil prices low during the period before the election, because of its impact on the economy. That's what I say."

As Bandar noted, Saudi Arabia doesn't "live on the moon"; when the world economy slows down, it affects his country as well. With oil prices shooting up -- a not-uncommon affect during a war, when countries start hoarding as a hedge against potential shortages -- inflation becomes a real possibility. Nor is that the only self-interest involved. Once prices rise to a high enough level, it becomes economically and politically more viable for countries like the US to start drilling and pumping its own oil from their own reserves. An expanded drilling effort by the United States would not only severely curb demand for their own product, lowering their profit potential long-term, it would also reduce any political influence Saudi Arabia has on the US, and with the American military presence surrounding their country, now is not a particularly good time to lose traction in Washington.

Bandar, CNN reports, said pretty much the same thing at the beginning of the month after he met with Condoleezza Rice regarding OPEC's proposed production cuts. Besides, as Bandar also notes, this is not the first time that an American government has urged them to pick up production in order to lower costs:

"We hoped that the oil prices will stay low, because that's good for America's economy, but more important, it's good for our economy and the international economy," he said. "This is nothing unusual. President Clinton asked us to keep the prices down in the year 2000. In fact, I can go back to 1979, President Carter asked us to keep the prices down to avoid the malaise."

"So yes, it's in our interests and in America's interests to keep the prices down. But that was not a deal."

So Clinton made "secret" arrangements to assist American consumers in an election year too! Damn him for that inexpensive gasoline I bought on the way to vote for George Bush! Even Carter tried to make "secret" pre-election deals, but typically he forgot that 1979 wasn't an election year. And also typically, he failed miserably; in 1979 I wound up enduring two-hour gasoline lines, and I could only buy gasoline on even-numbered days because the last number of my license plate ended in an even number, thanks to California gas rationing.

What Kerry and other leading Democrats -- who sent an asinine letter to the White House demanding information on his conspiracy to commit economic diplomacy -- wanted to do is to set up a catch-22 for the election. Under this conspiracy theory, Bush could be blamed for higher gas prices and for lower gas prices. Either way, he would be attacked, the former showing his ineptitude and the latter his conspiratorial bent.

Unfortunately, Bob Woodward didn't want to play along, although he may wind up being somewhat irrelevant as the Kerry campaign will flog this for the legions of the brain-dead who believe that Bush conspires with the Sauds on everything he does. Everyone else will recognize this as nutcase politics, the kind of demagoguery that you'd expect to hear from back-woods, tax-resistor militia rather than a credible major-party candidate.

UPDATE: From reader Charles Allen, here's an example of the Kerry two-step on gasoline prices, from March 30th:

The presumptive Democratic nominee complained that Bush has not taken steps to drive prices down... "This administration has done nothing with OPEC to reduce the gas prices," Kerry said during a rally at the University of California, San Diego.

And yesterday ...

Courting the Jewish vote in Florida, the state at the center of the disputed 2000 election, the presumptive Democratic nominee cited a report that President Bush and his senior advisers made "a secret White House deal" with the Saudis to deliver lower gas prices. "Last night ... it was reported that in the Oval Office discussion around whether to invade Iraq that the president, the vice president (Dick Cheney), the secretary of defense (Donald Rumsfeld) made a deal with Saudi Arabia that would deliver lower gas prices..."

You see? As always, Kerry twists things any way he can, inventing conspiracies when his allegations of ineptitude don't pan out. He's the perfect candidate for the International ANSWER paranoid nutcases.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 20, 2004 5:41 AM

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