With painfully high gas prices hurting Americans--and President Barack Obama's reelection prospects--Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Tuesday recanted his notorious September 2008 comment that he hoped to see the cost of filling up to reach the far more elevated levels common in Europe.
Republicans have used Chu's comment -- made months before there even was an Obama Administration--as a club to bludgeon the president and accuse him of deliberately enacting policies that have sent prices at the pump soaring.
"I no longer share that view," Chu told Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. "Of course we don't want the price of gasoline to go up. We want it to go down."
"That view" was Chu's comment, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in September 2008 and published in December of that year, that "somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." The Journal at the time called the future energy secretary's position "one major internal difference" with the future president.
But Republicans seized on the comment and never let go: Newt Gingrich used the comment earlier this month to slam the Obama administration's handling of gas prices.
Asked about Chu's formal recanting, White House press secretary Jay Carney accused Republicans of "engaging in politics" and sharply criticized those "who try to suggest that the statement of someone who wasn't even in government at the time is somehow a more significant indicator of the President's policy than the President's policy."
And Carney impatiently suggested that the Chu attack was past its sell-by date.
"I know that it's part of the fun for folks to find these quotes and suggest that they have some deeper meaning, and maybe that would be the case on day one of a presidency. But we're in the fourth year of this presidency," Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.
"There has been an attempt, a largely partisan attempt, to try to take comments like that and pretend that those are policy when in fact the policy reflects the contrary," Carney said.
High gas prices have become an election-year headache for Obama, and some Republicans have happily pointed out after drilling into videos from the 2008 campaign that the incumbent didn't exactly shy from using the same issue to his advantage four years ago.
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- President Barack Obama
- Steven Chu