One of the Republican Party’s propaganda narratives being driven on Fox News these days is that it is Pres. Obama’s fault that gas prices are rising. Actually, it’s even worse — Fox is pushing the idea that the president wants gas prices to rise.
This issue came up during the president’s news conference yesterday in this exchange with Ed Henry, the GOP-Foxbot embedded in the White House press corps:
FOXBOT: Related to Iran and Israel, you have expressed concern about this “loose talk of war,” as you call it, driving up gas prices further. Your critics will say on Capitol Hill that you want gas prices to go higher, because you have said before that will wean the American people off fossil fuels onto renewable fuels. How do you respond to that?
PRES. OBAMA: Ed, just from a political perspective, do you think the president of the United States going into reelection wants gas prices to go up higher? Is that — Is there anybody here [in the White House press corps] who thinks that makes a lot of sense?
It is unlikely that that exchange made it onto the air on Fox News yesterday, which could explain why, in his concession speech last night after losing all the Super Tuesday primaries but one, Newt Gingrich felt free to lie about what the president said:
NEWT GINGRICH: And I thought today, in one of the most shallow and self-serving comments by a president that I’ve heard in a long time, he was candid in his press conference. He said, “You know, I’m really worried about higher gas prices because it will make it harder for me to get re-elected.”
I did not make this up.
Actually, Newt, you did.
But underlying all this is the most persistent paradox of our political era. Just four years ago, specifically in July 2008, when not one but two oilmen, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, ran the government, gasoline prices surged to $4.27 a gallon, the highest price since 1972.
Back then, as the video above from Media Matters shows, Fox News pushed the opposite narrative — that the president, and politicians in general, had absolutely no control over the price of gasoline. In fact, in response to the crisis, Bill O’Reilly went into full-on treehugger mode:
BILL O’REILLY: Next time you hear a politician say he or she will bring down oil prices understand it’s complete [bull shit]. Americans want lower gas prices — cut back. Sell those SUVs. Ride a bike when you can. If every one of us bought 10 percent less gasoline, prices would fall fast. That’s what the candidates should be saying. We need a strong leader who’s honest, smart, courageous and willing to explain dubious associations. That’s what we need.
Here’s a rough transcript of the Media Matters video:
Fox News, May 23, 2008
BRET BAIER: Just as Memorial Day weekend begins, gas prices have reached another record high. Triple-A and the Oil Price Information Service say that the price of a gallon of regular rose more than four cents overnight to $3.87 and a half cents. But it’s worse for drivers in Alaska and Connecticut, California, New York and Illinois, where the average price is already more than four dollars a gallon.
And analysts say, with global oil prices continuing to climb to new highs, pump prices throughout the rest of the U.S. could soon rise well above the four-dollar barrier as well.
Fox News, Nov. 22, 2008
CAL THOMAS: Well, one of the problems we’ve had for a number of years in the media — and the entire media, mostly journalists, is that these charges get put out there, against the Bush administration or somebody else. And journalists don’t really examine the substance of it like they do during a political campaign. At least in the Washington Post and sometimes on O’Reilly with his “Reality Check” on this channel, they look at certain claims or promises to see what the facts are behind them.
And the facts are, as you suggested, no president has the power to increase or lower gas prices. Those are market forces.
Fox News, May 20, 2008
NEIL CAVUTO: What if it’s just the fact — you’ve got a booming global economy. You got China and India that are slopping up all this oil faster than we can. And that that is a not-so-sinister response to what’s going on.
Fox News, July 1, 2008
CHERYL CASONE, Fox Business News: You know, at this point, it really is tough for this president. I have to be honest with you, because he really does not have any control what’s gonna happen with the markets and with the economy, and with oil prices and supply and demand and gasoline, it really is out of this president’s hands.
Fox News, April 23, 2008
BILL O’REILLY: Most Americans are getting hammered by high gas prices. Today oil hit a record high, and politicians cannot do a thing about it.
O’REILLY: So whenever the barrel of oil goes up, they correspondingly raise all their prices to make as much money as humanly possible. I say that folks should be angry about that — should be angry. Should cut back 10, 15 percent of their buying, of all of these people. If we all did that, would that drive the price of American gasoline down?
GUEST: I don’t think you’re talking about a boycott. I think you’re talking about general conservation.
GUEST: …Using less energy. Absolutely. The only thing we can do is start to use less energy.
O’REILLY: So if every American who owned an automobile or an air conditioner said, I’m gonna use 10 percent less. 15 percent less, the prices then would fall.
GUEST: Yes. If we kept it. Now…
O’REILLY: (Cross talk).
GUEST: What happens in this country all the time is it’s a price spike, we react. We use less gasoline…
O’REILLY: And then you go right back up.
GUEST: We’re good at reacting, not conserving.
O’REILLY: People now know, and they should — politicians can’t do this. They can do temporary fixes like gas tax holidays…
Fox News, June 27, 2008
UNIDENTIFIED EXPERT: It is so painful what is going on with Americans across the country. And what they should do — and this is what I would advise — get rid of those gas guzzlers. Buy decent insulation for your house. And tell your local elected officials, Get on the stick and more mass transit infrastructure spending. Because those kinds of fixes could really help Americans across the country.
Fox News, June 18, 2008
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: If ANWAR drilling were permitted — and Pres. Bush 41 said basically no, Pres. Clinton said no, and this president [Bush] said no — today he’s now changed or at least some point he did — what difference would it make to gas prices, and how much could we produce based against our daily consumption?
GUEST: Well, interestingly, the energy economist in the [Bush administration] made an assessment just a few weeks ago, and what they came up with — it would reduce the price of oil about 40 cents a barrel or maybe as much as a $1.40 a barrel. Right now the price is $130 a barrel.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what does that do to my gallon of gas?
GUEST: It does not really change it much, at all. The problem is that, even though — I mean, Pres. Bush today said that there are 18 billion barrels of oil in ANWAR. The Saudis have 266 billion barrels of oil. It is really a small amount of oil, if you look at worldwide reserves.
VAN SUSTEREN: One statistic that I was given is that if we drilled in ANWAR, we’d get 4 percent of our daily consumption of oil. We only get 4 percent if go there and do…
GUEST: At peak, we’d get about — I don’t know — 800,000 barrels a day out of ANWAR. Right now, we’re using 20 million barrels a day. We are using so much oil that [ANWAR] is literally a drop in the bucket.
VAN SUSTEREN: To the extent we can — and we’ll talk about offshore next week — but to the extent we can figure out how to curb our appetite, if we’re not going to get our production up, even with that.
GUEST: The problem is, as long as we depend on oil, we’re going to depend on foreign governments for oil.
Fox News, March 21, 2008
O’REILLY: Next time you hear a politician say he or she will bring down oil prices understand it’s complete [bullshit]. Americans want lower gas prices — cut back. Sell those SUVs. Ride a bike when you can. If every one of us bought 10 percent less gasoline, prices would fall fast. That’s what the candidates should be saying. We need a strong leader who’s honest, smart, courageous and willing to explain dubious associations. That’s what we need.