Bush, the Saudis, and Oil Prices

Kevin Drum:

I’m listening to the 60 Minutes segment about Woodward’s book right now and just heard something I haven’t seen in any of the press reports so far: the Saudis promised Bush they would lower oil prices before the election so that the U.S. economy would be in good shape in November.

Well, if it’s in a book by Bob Woodward and being talked about on 60 Minutes, it must be true.

A couple weeks ago, John Kerry was blaming the president for high gas prices: This administration has done nothing with OPEC to reduce gas prices.” Not only would this be a meaningful rebutal to that charge, but it would show that the administration was thinking about this issue months ago and planning ahead for the increase in prices. Moreover, this puts to rest the notion that Bush can’t work with our allies to get things done.

Update: Apparently, NRO has said much the same thing, which has Kevin Drum and his commenters in stunned non-silence.

I’m actually being tongue-in-cheek with that passage–as I’d hoped the preceding lines about the reliability of Woodward and 60 Minutes had made clear.

Certainly, any agreement that Bush could make with the Saudis to lower oil prices would be good. Tacitly allowing them to raise prices in exchange for lowering them for partisan advantage would be bad. Mainly, though, I think the Saudis’ main motivation in manipulating prices is to make as much as they can while warding off incentive to look for alternatives.

I am amused, though, that the Democrats seem to think high prices are Bush’s fault but then they get upset at the idea that Bush would make a political deal to lower prices.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. SwampWoman says:

    So when gas prices lower in the fall, as they always do, I suppose the credible will say “Ohmygaw! Woodward was RIGHT. It is all a ploy to get Bush reelected!”

  2. Dave says:

    Naw, it’ll be “Bushitler’s Capitalist Halliburton Oil Cronies manipulated the economy to steal the election!”

    Oh, wait, you said the ‘credible’, not the ‘insane’.

  3. I love it. Bush pre-emptively does something with OPEC. (Curse him!)

  4. Jon Juzlak says:

    I continue to be astonished by the idiocy of some people.

    Lets clarify something here. Saudi Arabia is a dubious ally of the US, a state that proudly hosted 11 of the 15 attackers on Septemeber 11. And apparently the Bush administration seems to think its OK to strike a political deal with them to lower gas prices so as to benefit the current Presidency. By any definition this is really shocking. Woodward may or may not be correct — if he is, then it is and should indeed be shocking that a sitting US President would allow a foreign country to manipulate US election results.

  5. Lis Carey says:

    It’s rather amusing to see some of the same people who were going apeshit over the (incorrect) report that Kerry had said foreign leaders preferred him to Bush, apply so clear and blatant a double standard to a report that Saudi Arabia not only prefer Bush to Kerry, but are willing to manipulate oil prices in order to help re-elect him.

    And, Jon? It wasn’t 11 of 15 hijackers; it was 15 of 19. (And we all know how many of the remaining four were Iraqi, right?)

  6. Christopher says:

    A decadent and corrupt middle-eastern tyrant has agreed to (try to) manipulate the outcome of an American presidential election and you don’t have a problem with that? Doesn’t it make you wonder if there’s anything Bush has promised the Saudis in return? Or maybe there’s some information they’re afraid will be uncovered should Bush lose?

    Or maybe it’s just that the two families are business partners putting the oil industry ahead of national security.

  7. random says:

    It does seem to explain the “we aren’t going to beg OPEC” shrugging (‘yeah, no big deal; the fix is coming’) and the current price run-up. Gotta make up those lost fall profits now, and will make an October drop even more dramatic.

    Of course the much greater threat to our national interest, security and integrity is the undue influence via $300 campaign contributions by the powerful Buddhist nun lobby…

  8. Bloggerhead says:

    James, a more complete story would go something like this:

    In the 2000 campaign, candidate Bush bragged that where his opponent’s administration had meekly failed to extract maximum price concessions from the oil producing nations, he would use his oilmanry to drive the hardest bargain. Hell, we knew, at least, we were getting that, right? If nothing else, the oil administration would keep the dinosaurs pumping on full, and prices follow supply, so…

    The Kerry campaign highlighted two things with their comments on the Bushies’ boast. Not only were the words made to come back to them, but the lie was put to the notion that an oil administration would oversee anything other than an increase in oil prices.

    The excruciating fact that Prince Bandar was shown hyper-classified plans and manly told of war (Can you imagine the stiffies in that room? Ooohgh.), before the Secretary of State–who’s universal good-will these demons traded on–was told, hardly constitutes the irony you’re attempting to put on display here.

    What would be ironic would be the unsealing of the Cheney energy task force documents and finding other such deals with terrorist supporting nations. Isn’t the Caspian pipeline supposed to run through Afghanistan?