Worried about the political threat of rising gas prices, Democrats scrambled over the weekend to push back against the GOP’s latest line of attack on the White House: connecting consumers’ pain at the pump with President Obama.
On Sunday, one day after Mr. Obama talked about the limits of presidential power when it comes to energy prices in his weekly address, Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs derided GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich, who promised $2.50 gas on the campaign stump last week.
“There are a series of people that want tell you that there are very easy magic-bullet solutions to the problems that we face. We know that’s not true,” Mr. Gibbs said in an interview on CNN.
He said Mr. Obama may consider tapping the nation’s emergency supply, the Strategic Petroleum Reserves, to ease rising prices — as has been urged by Democrats in Congress.
Three House Democrats — Massachusetts’ Edward J. Markey, Vermont’s Peter Welch and Connecticut’s Rosa L. DeLauro — have sent a letter to the president urging him to use the reserves, as he did last summer. The world’s largest petroleum reserve has more than 700 million barrels — about a 30-day supply — maintained by the federal government.
Mr. Gibbs, the president’s former spokesman, said opening up the Strategic Petroleum Reserves is a possibility.
“I know that the White House is going to look at every available option in the short and the long term. But, again, we’re not going to magically make this problem disappear,” Mr. Gibbs said.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, head of the Democratic Governors Association, also dismissed the Gingrich gas promise.
“Newt Gingrich also has a plan to create moon colonies and lunar outposts within two years,” he said.
Other Democrats have called for more production. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, on Sunday called for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to push Saudi Arabia to boost output.
The president in his Saturday speech said “there’s no silver bullet.
“But what we can do is get our priorities straight and make a sustained, serious effort to tackle this problem,” he said.
Republicans, he said, have one answer to the oil pinch: drill.
“That’s not a plan,” he said. “It’s a bumper sticker.”
The average price of a gallon of gas hit $3.65 nationwide on Friday, and Republicans in Washington and on the campaign trail Sunday put the blame squarely on the president.
“Let’s give the president credit for one domestic policy that works. He wanted higher gas prices and he got them,” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Secretary Chu said $8 [is] about what they pay in Europe. It would be great. … And so, they have gotten the doubling of gas prices and perhaps worse. It’s a conscious policy of this administration,” Mr. Daniels said. “Maybe [it’s] the one thing they set out to do and actually accomplished.”
Mr. Daniels’ comments refer to a 2008 interview with then-University of California, Berkeley professor Steven Chu, who talked about ways to encourage consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist is now the Obama administration’s energy secretary.