<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d5529474\x26blogName\x3dDimmy+Karras\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dSILVER\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://dimmykarras.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://dimmykarras.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d2234159095245132931', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

VandeHei Watch 3.31.04: Gas Pains

I was watching MSNBC last week and for one of their stories on high fuel prices they had the words "Gas Pains" on the screen. That a news report's title would make an indigestion-related pun made me happy for some reason, and so I've lifted the phrase for the title of today's VandeHei Watch. In the past two days, Jim VandeHei has had two articles in the Washington Post on the gas issue and the charges flying back and forth between Kerry and Bush, and the dishonesty and political opportunism on both sides has been painful even to read about.

I'll begin with yesterday's co-bylined VandeHei piece with Mike Allen, "Kerry to Unveil Plan to Reduce Gas Prices", which ran on page A4. The essence of the issue is this:

Facing GOP attacks for advocating higher gas taxes as a senator, the Massachusetts Democrat will call on President Bush to apply greater pressure on oil-producing nations to increase production, in a bid to drive down crude oil prices, and to temporarily suspend filling U.S. oil reserves, said Stephanie Cutter, a Kerry spokeswoman.

For more on the Kerry plan, visit this page on his web site.

VandeHei and Allen point out that the last time a president diverted oil supply from the strategic reserve (Bill Clinton in September 2000) there was no effect on energy prices. Also, when Bush was running for president that year, he memorably said it was the president's job to "jawbone" OPEC leaders and to ask them to "open the spigot." We see how well that has worked out during Bush's term, continuing with today's announcement by OPEC that they will be cutting output by 4%. That's all to say that I don't think Kerry's plan will cut gas prices as he promises. At least he's not trying to capitalize on the prices at the pump to push a largely unrelated energy bill that gives billions of dollars to the energy industry, though, as the administration is now doing. In short, neither candidate has a real plan to address the short-term problem we're facing (I do think in the long-run Kerry is better because he favors conservation efforts, unlike the vice president, who sneers at such ideas).

The lack of any real proposal from either side (and I don't have one either) isn't holding back the political grandstanding, however. Kerry is harping on the gas prices to bludgeon the president, just as he has done with job losses. The Kerry quote in yesterday's Post reads, "This administration has one economic policy for America: 3 million jobs lost and driving gas prices towards $3 a gallon." Allen and VandeHei note that the current average fuel price is $1.80, far below the $3 figure Kerry claims to try to make a catchy line along with the 3 million jobs lost (which is another exaggeration, though less of one).

Never to be done in the dishonest attack department, the Bush administration is now running a TV ad about Kerry's support of an increased gas tax form a decade ago. Today's Post article by VandeHei and Dana Milbank says it all in its subhead: "Bush Counters With Attack Ad Based On Decade-Old Statement by Senator." Here's the meat:

"There are some in the other party in Washington who would like to raise gas taxes," Bush told an audience of business executives and other supporters here. "I think it would be wrong. I think it would be damaging to the economy."

Bush's remarks, at a taxpayer-funded forum on the economy here, were coordinated with his campaign's new ad, which accuses the Massachusetts senator of backing a gas tax increase that would cost the average family $657 a year. Kerry opposes any increase in the gas tax. Though the narrator does not say so, the ad's charge is based on a 10-year-old statement by Kerry.

Bush is once again claiming that Kerry supports a policy that Kerry has specifically rejected. Nonetheless, the Bushies probably succeeded in their goal of distracting attention from the rollout of Kerry's actual plan to deal with energy prices.

There's plenty more back-and-forth in the article (Greg Mankiw backed a gas tax hike in 1999, Bush never followed through on a statement he made that he would pursue cutting gas taxes, etc.), with the two sides essentially calling each other lying SOBs. Only seven more months of this!

While today's entry is largely a condemnation of the two campaigns, I do think the reporters involved bear some responsibility for permitting the campaigns to spread their dishonest charges, particularly by still refusing to state plainly that statements from both campaigns are misleading and inaccurate (though they put the contrasting information in close proximity in the stories) and by continuing to allow questionable anonymity to sources, including yesterday's "senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity because he sets policy and is not a spokesman." I wish they would stop insulting readers' intelligence by pretending these are scoops when obviously the White House wants the info in the paper almost always (the same usually applies to the Kerry camp).