Gas Crisis Puts Heat On Bush

Producer Sidney Ganis accepts the award for Outstanding Motion Picture for "Akeelah & the Bee" at the Black Movie Awards, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006, in Los Angeles. The movie won four awards.
AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant
High gas prices aren't just pushing frustration levels up, they've uncorked a gusher of political accusations too.

From Capitol Hill to the campaign trail, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker, Republicans have been drilling the Clinton White House for sitting idle while drivers fume.

"The Clinton-Gore administration has been there for seven years," said Texas Gov. George W. Bush, "and we're more dependent now than ever on energy from foreign sources."

Bush even said Vice President Al Gore is getting what he wished for in Earth in the Balance, his book on the environment.

"He writes in a book that he thinks we ought to have higher fuel prices," said Bush.

But Democrats said "hold on a minute." If oil prices are a sticky issue for anybody, it's that Texas oil man turned governor, George W. Bush, a self-proclaimed friend of the industry.

"The Texas oil man is obviously feeling the heat over gas prices and his failure to take on his friends in the oil business," said Gore spokesman Douglas Hattaway in a statement.


Gas Guzzlers

Following are contributions to the major presidential candidates from the oil and gas industries.

Totals
George W. Bush: $1,543,186
Al Gore: $99,660

Top Five Oil and Gas Contributors
To Bush:
Enron Corp.: $92,250
El Paso Energy: $39,834
Koch Industries: $32,200
Exxon Mobil Corp.: $30,575
BP Amoco Corp.: $27,620

To Gore:
Enron Corp.: $9,750
Occidental Petroleum: $8,000
Belco Oil and Gas: $6,000
Amerada Hess Corp.: $4,000
Kansas Pipeline: $4,000

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

"You know the old song, Whose Side Are You On?" asked Gore. "I am now, as I have always been, on the side of the consumers."

Both candidates have gotten campaign contributions from big oil, but Bush has pulled in 15 times more.

He started his business career in the Texas oilfields and keeps tapping those oil reserves. Many of his top fund-raisers and campaign officials are tied to the industry.

"There seems to be an effort out of Washington to blame me for rising energy prices," said Bush. "The American people aren't going to buy that."

When it comes to high gas prices, about the only thing everybody agrees on is that somebody else is responsible.

"People are looking to Congress for leadership and constructive action," House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., said at a news conference Friday. "Instead, the Republicans in Congress have served up inaction and a fast and furious blame game."

At another news conference 90 minutes later, House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma ofered a different view.

"It becomes blatantly obvious that Democrats would rather do what is politically convenient rather than provide relief to the American people," he said. "It's time for Democrats to join us and help provide relief at the pump for millions of Americans."

No one knows what's going to happen with gas prices, but one thing is certain. Now that they're a hot campaign issue, the political rhetoric will continue to be pumped up, before gas prices come down.