The first time I wrote about the price of gas at the pump, George W. Bush and Al Gore were campaigning for the White House. Back in 2000, I wondered if Gore might pick then-Energy Sec. Bill Richardson to be his running mate.
“Bill Richardson or Andrew Cuomo look good on paper, but they can’t help Gore win in November,” I wrote. “Imagine having to defend Richardson if gas prices still are hovering around $2 a gallon this fall.”
I just paid $3.99 for regular here in town. Can you imagine $2 gas being a political liability in Laguna Beach?
Eight years later, the price of gas continued to be a hot topic during the 2008 Democratic and GOP presidential primaries.
A month before the cost of crude first hit triple digits, conservative talk show host John McLaughlin predicted $100 a barrel on his syndicated television program. At the same time, then-Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean was telling everyone, “Unfortunately, ‘I told you so,’ is an incredibly unsuccessful campaign slogan.”
We now know both comments were oh-so true. Almost all of us, anyway. As late as March, 2008, President Bush hadn’t been briefed on the trend in fuel prices.
“You’re predicting $4 a gallon gasoline?” Bush responded to a reporter who said some analysts expected prices to climb that high shortly. “That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that … I know it’s high now.”
Yes it was, Mr. President. Oh well, that was then and this is now.
Here’s what Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a major GOP presidential contender, said at a town hall meeting in South Carolina two weeks ago about gas prices: “Gas was $1.79 when President Obama took office. Under President Bachmann you will see gasoline come down below $2 per gallon again. That will happen.”
I’m thrilled Bachmann thinks she can make good on that pledge; unfortunately, one of her Republican opponents, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, doesn’t think she can.
Appearing on ABC News recently, Huntsman said that Bachmann’s promise is “not from the real world.”
“I just don’t know what … what world that comment would come from, you know? We live in the real world. It’s grounded in reality. And gas prices just aren’t going to rebound like that,” Huntsman concluded.
If two of the GOP presidential candidates are this worked up this early about the price of gas, just wait. It wouldn’t surprise me if all of the Republicans running for the White House don’t make a prediction of their own before too long.
Just because I’ve been writing about presidential campaigns and the price of gas at the pump for nearly a dozen years, don’t think for a minute I have some special insight into who thinks what or why.
The only thing I have is perspective, and that perspective is this: the more things change the more they stay the same.
The price of gas is a daily gut-punch we all have to endure. It’s a drain (i.e., a tax?) on the American psyche. That was true back in 2000, when gas was about $2 a gallon, and it’s true today at nearly twice the price.
When are we going to get this right?
Denny Freidenrich, Laguna Beach