- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Al Gore's tendency to exaggerate his role in government came under renewed fire yesterday from the Bush campaign and energy experts who said his claim that he helped establish the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a fairy tale.
"To say that he was involved in the creation of the nation's petroleum reserve is just factually not true. He's becoming the Hans Christian Andersen of American politics," said Dan Sullivan, a spokesman for George W. Bush, the Republican presidential nominee.
"There's definitely a pattern to embellish or exaggerate or make up facts," Mr. Sullivan said.
In the aftermath of the Clinton administration's decision to sell 30 million barrels of oil from the SPR, Mr. Gore defended the action last Friday, saying that he was in on the ground floor when the nation's defense-related Strategic Petroleum Reserve was established by Congress in 1975.
"I've been part of the discussion on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve since the days it was first established," Mr. Gore told reporters.
The Gore campaign said over the weekend, when the controversy over Mr. Gore's statement first erupted, that Mr. Gore was in Congress when the oil reserves were being filled and he was a member of a key committee with oversight of the project.
Gore campaign spokesman Kym Spell said the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was authorized in 1975 but was not funded until two years later, when Gore worked on the project as a member of a House Commerce subcommittee on energy.
In fact, after the oil storage reserve was authorized and signed into law in 1975 two years before Mr. Gore was in Congress it was being filled with oil by the middle of 1977, about five months after he became a member of the House of Representatives.
Energy experts said yesterday that Mr. Gore could not have played any role in the establishment or development of the oil reserve at that point because $760 million had already been appropriated and spent to build the storage facilities and they were in the process of being filled a few months after he was sworn into office.
"It was in the original 1975 legislation to fill it up by 1 billion barrels of oil, and they started filling it on July 21, 1977," said Ed Porter an energy analyst at the American Petroleum Institute.
Other independent analysts also maintained yesterday that Mr. Gore's claim was not true.
"It's just another one of his wonderful fantasy exaggerations," said Angela Antonelli, director of economic policy at the Heritage Foundation.
"The need and the purpose of the petroleum reserve was established before Gore was in Congress," she said. "And regardless what he claims now about the purposes of the petroleum reserve, he stands alone in his attempt to justify this new use of the reserve, which he now claims to make up by asserting, apparently falsely, that he was there at its creation."
Mr. Gore made his claim when he was defending President Clinton's decision to begin selling oil from the reserve in an effort to reduce oil prices rejecting arguments by critics that the reserve was set up for strategic purposes only, not to regulate prices.
The Web site for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve program makes no claims that the program was created to regulate prices and instead calls it "the nation's first line of defense against an interruption in petroleum supplies" and "a significant deterrent to oil import cutoffs and a key tool of foreign policy."
Mr. Bush called the administration's decison to sell off part of the reserve "a political decision" to gain some reduction in oil prices to help Mr. Gore in the final weeks of the presidential campaign.
The Bush campaign stepped up their criticism of the decision yesterday when Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a key Bush adviser, also accused the administration of abusing the strategic reserve for political purposes.
At a news conference yesterday in Richmond, Gen. Powell said Mr. Clinton's decision was politically motivated. "I don't think any decision one could take would not have a political coloration," he said.
With the latest opinion polls showing Mr. Bush's numbers rising and Mr. Gore's falling, Republicans aggressively attacked Mr. Gore's latest statement on the reserve, calling it "another in a long line of exaggerations" and false assertions by the Democratic nominee.
The Republican National Committee dug out and circulated several statements over the weekend by people who have questioned Mr. Gore's honesty in the past.
One statement circulated by the RNC quoted Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communications, who earlier this year questioned Mr. Gore's honesty.
"Is there a tendency to exaggerate? Is there a tendency to reconstruct the past? When you start counting on the fingers of both hands, you start to say maybe there's a pattern here," she said in an interview with the Boston Globe last April.
Mr. Gore's claim about his role in the petroleum reserve comes after two weeks of statements that raised similar questions about his credibility.
In one episode he claimed that his mother-in-law paid three times as much for her arthritis prescription drug than Mr. Gore paid for the same drug that his dog takes. It turned out that his numbers were lifted whole from a House Democratic study and that he could not substantiate his story.
Last week he maintained that the union song "Look For The Union Label" was sung to him as a child as a lullaby when, in fact, the TV jingle came out in 1975 when he was 27.
"His lying looks at this point not like a foible but a compulsion," Republican speech writer Peggy Noonan wrote yesterday in an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal.

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