VIDEO: Bodman Stumped Trying to Explain Bush Flip-Flop on Strategic Reserve

In Sept. 2000, then-Gov. George W. Bush criticized President Clinton for proposing to use the strategic oil reserve in response to high prices:

The Strategic Reserve is an insurance policy meant for a sudden disruption of our energy supply or for war. Strategic Reserve should not be used as an attempt to drive down oil prices right before an election. It should not be used for short-term political gain at the cost of long-term national security.

Today on Meet the Press, Tim Russert asked Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to explain why President Bush broke his 2000 campaign pledge and announced he would stop filling the Strategic Reserve.

Bodman couldn’t keep his answers straight. First he said the decision was merely “symbolic.” Then he claimed it was actually meant “to make a contribution to the reduction of prices.” Then he suggested that Bush had indeed broken his campaign pledge, but that it was okay since it had been several years and “times are different.” Then he flipped again, saying Bush was justified because current gas prices constituted a “crisis.” Not ready for primetime. Watch it:

Full transcript below:

RUSSERT: [After watching Sept. 2000 Bush campaign clip] Isn’t that exactly what the President is now doing?

BODMAN: Tim, this president has been very consistent in his application and management of the Strategic Reserve. We have not used the reserve for interruptions in supply. We have been asked by the Democrats when oil was $60 a barrel to remove oil from the Reserve and put it into the market place so it will drive prices down. We declined to do that. Now we have oil at $75 a barrel. You know, that — the movement of prices is a function of the supply and demand, as we’ve already talked about, and it is not something that is, I think, going to be meaningfully affected by whatever happens to the Strategic Reserve. He has taken the position at this point in time to suspend the repurchase until the fall after we get through the driving season. So it’s a modest effort, it is a symbolic effort. But it is something that I think may help.

RUSSERT: In all honesty, it’s a political effort before the mid-term elections?

BODMAN: I wouldn’t call it a political effort. I would say that it’s an effort to effect the supply of oil in the system and to make a contribution to the reduction of prices.

RUSSERT: His standard was a crisis or a war. We don’t confront any of those at this moment in terms of the oil supply. This was a reserve in times of real crisis, and we’re stopping putting oil into it in order to effect the market price during the driving season. You just said that.

BODMAN: Tim, we’re here today, I would say that there’s evidence — there’s apparently some evidence that we have a crisis. There’s a lot of concern about this. And so the President is looking at everything, every tool at his disposal to put to work on it. I’m not embarrassed by that. And I think it’s the right thing to do.

RUSSERT: You think the President’s action is consistent with his campaign pledge in 2000?

BODMAN: I think that was 10 years ago or nine years ago, whenever it was, and it was some — times are different. And the situation has changed. Fundamentally, this reserve, the Strategic Reserve has not been used for purposes other than trying to deal with disruption. And so we have been very conservative in the use of it. And I think that stands this country in very good stead.

RUSSERT: But you said we are in a crisis.

BODMAN: I believe there are those who would call it that. The fact we’re here today.

RUSSERT: Do you call it a crisis?

BODMAN: I would call it that, yes. I think that there is great concern, you started out — you started out with the suggestion that it’s the number one issue on the minds of the American public. It’s something this President takes very seriously. It’s something the entire administration takes very seriously. And, you know, we’re doing everything we know how to do to deal with it that works. Not the things that we know for a fact do not work.