Yesterday, President Barack Obama laid out the steps the White House is taking on rising gas costs, telling the Florida crowd that “drill everywhere” rhetoric is a “bumper sticker,” not a solution, but that he’s working to reduce oil demand and rein in Wall Street speculators.
When CNN moderator John King directly asked the Republican candidates for their own plans on gas prices at Wednesday’s debate, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum completely sidestepped the question by attacking Obama’s foreign policy in Iran. Newt Gingrich, who released a half-hour ad targeting energy prices earlier that day, offered nothing beyond his one-sentence talking point on gas prices:
Well, the first thing I’d do, across the board for the entire region, is create a very dramatic American energy policy of opening up federal lands and opening up offshore drilling, replacing the EPA.
Gingrich, who earlier in the debate said that he could lower gas prices to $2.50, did not explain how any of these policies would lower prices to his promised benchmark, a price economists agree is impossible to achieve. Gingrich omitted that the U.S. became a net fuel exporter for the first time in 60 years as domestic production hit an 8-year high in 2011. Evidence shows that speculators drive up gas prices. Although Gingrich released a half-hour ad focused on gas prices and energy policy ahead of Wednesday night’s debate, given a chance to defend it, he couldn’t even elaborate beyond the expected conservative talking point.
But given the chance to offer proposals, Gingrich couldn’t even come to his own defense to elaborate beyond the expected talking point of drill, baby, drill.
Read an excerpt of the candidates’ answers to CNN moderator John King.
KING: The American people often don’t pay much attention to what’s going on in the world until they have to, but this is an issue, this confrontation with Iran that is partly responsible for what we have seen daily at the gas pump. Prices going up and going up and going up. So I want — Governor Romney come into the conversation, we’ll continue it with everyone at the table. As we have this showdown, confrontation, call it what you will with Iran. Should our leadership, including the current president of the United States and the four gentleman here with me tonight, be prepared to look the American people in the eye and say — and I want to hear everybody’s plans, over the long run I think I can bring down the price of gasoline, or I can’t if that’s your plan.
But at the moment, we need to have a conversation about how as long as this continues, the prices are likely to keep going up.
ROMNEY: Look, the — the price of gasoline pales in comparison to the idea of Ahmadinejad with nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad having fissile material that he can give to Hezbollah and Hamas and that they can bring into Latin America and potentially bring across the border into the United States to let off dirty bombs here. I mean — or — or more sophisticated bombs here, this — we simply cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weaponry. And — and — and this president has a lot of failures. It’s hard — it’s hard to think of — economically his failures, his — his policies in a whole host of areas have been troubling.
But nothing in my view is as serious a failure as his failure to deal with Iran appropriately. This president — this president should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran, he did not. He decided to give Russia — he decided to give Russia their number one foreign policy objective, removal of our missile defense sites from Eastern Europe and got nothing in return. He could have gotten crippling sanctions against Iran. He did not. When dissident voices took to the street in Iran to protest a stolen election there, instead of standing with them, he bowed to the election. This is a president…
(APPLAUSE) ROMNEY: …who has made it clear through his administration in almost every communication we’ve had so far, that he does not want Israel to take action. That he opposes military action. This is a president who should have instead communicated to Iran that we are prepared, that we are considering military options. They’re not just on the table. They are in our hand. We must now allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. If they do, the world changes. America will be at risk. And some day, nuclear weaponry will be used. If I am president, that will not happen. If we reelect Barack Obama, it will happen.
KING: Senator Santorum, please?
SANTORUM: I agree with Governor Romney’s comment. I think they are absolutely right on and well spoken. I would say that if you’re looking for a president to be elected in this country that will send that very clear message to Iran as to the seriousness of the American public to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon, there would be no better candidate than me because I have been on the trail of Iran and trying to advocate for stopping them getting a nuclear weapon for about eight years now.
I was the author of a bill back in 2008 that talked about sanctions on a nuclear program that our intelligence community said didn’t exist and had the President of the United States, president bush oppose me for two years.
KING: Mr. Speaker, then Governor Romney, if you were president today, what would you do differently from this president tomorrow?
GINGRICH: Well, the first thing I’d do, across the board for the entire region, is create a very dramatic American energy policy of opening up federal lands and opening up offshore drilling, replacing the EPA.