Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bush's blundering brand of "diplomacy.":

Later in the day, the Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, twisted the knife a few notches further by saying, at a press conference, that his government had already increased production by 20 percent—then added that this move was in response to requests from some 50 customers all over the world, not just from Bush. (In other words, he went out of his way to avoid giving even the impression of doing the United States a favor.)

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, took another poke at Bush. "The president showed great concern for the impact on the American economy," the prince told the press corps. "We of course sympathize with that." Period. The end.

So humiliating—and after the White House press secretary, Dana Perino, had alerted reporters on Air Force One that the president would be asking for just such a favor. "Clearly, the price of gas is too high for Americans, and it is causing a hardship for families with low income," Perino said. "We do count on the OPEC countries to keep adequate supplies out there, so the president will talk with the king about that."

What is going on? It's bizarre that Bush should expect the Saudis to sacrifice their economic interests for the sake of doing him a favor. It is no less odd that Bush, through Perino, would publicly announce his plea in advance, thus setting himself up for humiliation. Finally, on a point that goes beyond political blundering to national policy, it is damningly revealing for Perino to say that we "count on the OPEC countries" to maintain adequate oil supplies. Maybe, in the name of sovereignty and for the sake of our vital interests, Bush should be taking the initiative, doing something on his own to bring oil prices down—for instance, devising a national energy policy that offers incentives, or sets mandates, to reduce demand.

11:54 AM