High US Gas Prices Could Have Political Impact

The rising cost of gasoline in the United States is the latest in a series of political problems facing President Bush and Republicans in Congress as they look ahead to congressional elections later this year.

Americans are digging deeper into their pockets to pay for the rising cost of gas and that could have an impact on the congressional mid-term elections in November.

"You got to bring it down, man. I can't pay my bills," says a man in New York.

The complaints of this man, and others like him around the country, pushed President Bush Tuesday to take several steps to try to bring down rising U.S. fuel prices, which still remain lower than in many other parts of the world.

Mr. Bush is temporarily suspending some environmental rules on gasoline and is deferring purchases for the nation's strategic oil reserve with the hope of increasing supply and driving prices down.

The president has also ordered the government to investigate whether oil companies are trying to take advantage of the situation.

"Americans understand, by and large, that the price of crude oil is going up and that their prices are going up. But what they don't want and will not accept is manipulation of the market. And neither will I," he said.

Opposition Democrats see a huge political opportunity as Americans fret about the high cost of gas stretching into the U.S. summer season, when many families take driving vacations.

"The president doesn't touch his friends at the big oil companies and it is nice that the president is finally talking about gas prices. But talk is cheap and gas isn't," says Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York.

Political analysts warn that an extended period of high gas prices could fuel voter anger in November when Republicans defend their majorities in both houses of Congress against Democrats who are becoming increasingly confident of gaining seats.

"The president is not on the ballot so the only way to send a message to the government, to the White House, to Congress about the president's performance is via these congressional elections," says Washington-based analyst Stuart Rothenberg.

President Bush is also facing major challenges in trying to turn around negative public perceptions of his handling of Iraq and last year's response to Hurricane Katrina.

The latest CNN poll had the president's approval rating at 32 percent, the lowest in that survey so far. Sixty-nine percent of those asked in the poll said the rising gas prices were causing them severe financial hardship.

Mr. Bush has a new White House chief of staff in Josh Bolten and will soon have a new press spokesman in former journalist Tony Snow. But political experts say he may need to make more changes in the weeks to come.

Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, who recently wrote a biography of the president called Rebel in Chief, was a guest on VOA's Press Conference USA program.

"You want to recapture the aura of a new term beginning and I think he can do that but he is going to have to do many more personnel changes," he said. "I am sure he is going to do some at the White House. Whether he will do more beyond that, I don't know."

Other analysts believe Mr. Bush's political fate - and that of congressional Republicans - is still tied primarily to developments in Iraq.

"I mean this is primarily about Iraq," says Stephen Hess, an expert on the presidency at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "There is no sense talking about his education policy or something like that. I mean he has been in office now for nearly six years. He has got one major policy in which he has thrown all the chips into the game. Is it going to work? We shall see."

Rising gas prices have taken their toll on previous U.S. presidents.

Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford both dealt with the impact of the 1973 Arab oil embargo.

And high gas prices and shortages were also a factor in President Jimmy Carter's defeat by Ronald Reagan in 1980.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs