News Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face The Nation, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on oil prices and a debate on the gender gap in Campaign 2000.
Last week, President Clinton decided to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to combat the high price of oil. Is this a political move? Will it even work? We'll ask Energy Secretary Richardson and get a response from Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska.
Then we'll talk about the wide gender gap in the presidential campaign. Why are single women going for Gore? We'll talk with Democratic Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln of Arkansas, Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and pollster Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center.
Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on the Olympics. But first, the high cost of energy on Face The Nation.
And good morning again. Joining us here in the studio, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Republican senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel. We're going to start with Secretary Richardson. Secretary Richardson, somebody once said about politics that it is the art of taking credit for the inevitable. And I'm just wondering, as I heard the vice president call on the president to release this oil from the strategic oil reserve, was this all a set-up? Did he know this is what the president was planning to do and just decided to jump out there and get ahead of the issue?
Bill Richardson, Energy Secretary: Well, the vice president's national security advisers are part of many of these discussions. We had been debating this issue for weeks. The reason the president acted is to deal with a potential supply emergency of home heating oil on the East Coast, around the country. Right now, 20 percent less home heating oil as of a year ago in the country, 40 percent less in the New En - in - in the East Coast, and 65 percent less than a year ago of home heating oil in New England. So in order to deal with this coming winter, the president acted. He also acted because, not just we have a supply emergency problem, but also to deal with moderating prices, put more oil on the market worldwide.
And I think the reaction's been very good - the G-7 countries, European bankers, including Chairman Greenspan, European Union, a number of Republican members of the Senate and the House, consumer groups, trucking groups, but most importantly, OPEC countries, I think, recognizing that this was an internal matter and that home heating oil supplies were so low, this is why we took the action.
Schieffer: Well, let me - that brings up an interesting point, because I've heard some critics say this, in fact, was a little more than a gesture. I want to show you here what the vice president himself said about this just back in February. Let's roll some tape here.
Vice President Al Gore: (from videotape) As long as it's as small as it is and OPC has such big reserves, all they would have to do is to cut back a little bit on the supply, and they'd wipe out any impact from releasing oil from that reserve.
Schieffer: So there you have it. I mean, even the vice president back in February was saying, 'You know, if you release just a little oil, it's not going to make much difference.' So how can you argue this is not just a political move here?
Richardson: Because that was February. And in February, we didn't have home heating oil supplies so low, crude oil stocks so low; the price of crude per barrel, $38. OPEC had acted - has acted three times to put 3.5 million more barrels of oil on the market. Nonetheless, those were positive moves, but it really didn't deal with a huge demand internationally. This is an international problem.
Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: Well - well, what if OPEC does retaliate and pumps less oil? Have you gotten any assurances?
Richardson: Well, we have been monitoring the situation. We've talked to several OPEC countries, non-OPEC countries. The reaction so far - and they've put out public statements - is they understand the American action. If it is able to stabilize prices and deal with crude oil stocks, they've been reasonably positive.
Borger: So no retaliation? You don't think you're going to get any.
Richardson: We - we don't expect any, but, again, OPEC and the United States have the same goal. And the goal is to increase world production, because increased demand to deal with low crude oil stocks, to deal with low home heating oil stocks - this is an international problem, Gloria.
Borger: Well, very quickly, let - let me ask you about the Saddam factor. Saddam Hussein has been hinting lately that he might cut off or reduce Iraqi oil supply, which is five percent of the crude oil that we get. So what if Saddam starts playing games as a result of this?
Richardson: I think Saddam doesn't have as much leverage as he thinks. First, the supply of Iraq is about 2.1 million per day. How can we respond? One, we have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Two, we can combine with other countries, International Energy Agency countries. And what most likely would happen is some of the Gulf nations that are our allies would make up that difference. So I don't think Saddam has us with much leverage.
Schieffer: Is there a chance that the president may, in fact, release more oil before the election?
Richardson: What the president has said is that we are going to - first of all, Bob, it's a swap. We get that oil back, the reserve is replenished. That's the good thing. Taxpayer makes money, we replenish the reserve, and - and we put, I think, our - an added energy security. After 30 days, after 30 million barrels or - the president'll make an assessment and see where we are.
Schieffer: So it ay - it - he may, in fact, do that. All right.
Richardson: Well, it's - it's up to him, yeah.
Schieffer: OK. Let me turn to Senator Hagel. This whole business of Saddam Hussein as being the unknown factor here, what about that?
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.): Well, let me address an - an overall piece of this before I - I answer your question, Bob. You know, we - we somehow focus on the consequences of - of the problem, of the mess, rather than the reasons for the mess that were in. And we are in a mess, and - and we - we have a projected mess coming. And why is that? Well, we're dependent on foreign oil by 60 percent. And it - it increases. And - and if you look at just the dynamics of what's happened in the last eight years, our production here in this country has decreased by 18 percent, our dependency on foreign oil has increased by about 30 percent; our demand up by 15 percent. So that - that's the problem here, and let's not kid ourselves.
Now the Saddam Hussein factor is a very critical part of this. Here we are, we have a - a rather schizophrenic policy toward this fellow. By night, we bomb him; by day, we buy his oil: 2.3 million barrels of oil that he produces. And we - we purchase 700,000 to 750,000 barrels of that. Now what if he - and he has the capacity to in - increase that, as he is - is - is warning now that Kuwait is taking his oil. What if he starts to shut that off? What if he starts to further intimidate his neighbors? We are now all subject to some political blackmail. A very dangerous equation.
But let's get back to where we need to be, and that is this is a terrible mistake moving to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, first, because that's not what it was set up to do in 1975. The problem with home heating oil - and it - it is a problem and it's going to be a bigger problem - is not - is not supply of crude oil, but it's - it's the cost and the supply of refined oil. And the refineries, which we don't have very many of, because in the last eight years, weve shut down 36 refineries in this country and the Northeast doesn't have any refineries, nor do they have any liquid fuel pipelines - they are captive to that. We need an energy policy that's going to be able to produce, conserve, but take in all the factors: oil, coal, nuclear, hydro and - and we don't have that.
Borger: Senator Hagel, le - let me ask you point blank. Why do you think the Clinton administration did this then?
Hagel: Well, my friend Bill Richardson has given you his explanation, but when I assess the reality of this, when the secretary of Treasury, Mr. Summers, added his voice to this rather directly and vociferously last week in - in a memo countering Secretary Richardson's...
Borger: Said it would be a major and substantial policy mistake. That's what he said.
Hagel: Well - and I - and I believe that, as doeand did Mr. Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman, and others who have looked at this. Th - this is not going to change the dynamic of the problem. And the other thing that Mr. Richardson talks about is, 'Well, this is good news, it's a swap.' But, Bill, that - that swap depends on whether we're going to have a continued flow of cheap oil. The OPEC director himself said that this is going to go to $40 a barrel before it's over in the next few months. And I suspect even $50. So any way you measure this, I think it's folly.
Richardson: I - I think, first of all, Secretary Summers supported the decision of 30 million for 30 days. That's a fact. Secondly, Chairman Greenspan signed the Central Bank statement welcoming the swap. Thirdly, what we're talking about, Senator, is a swap from some of the oil in the reserve, the companies bid on it and then tag it to the futures market. They then have to get a premium on that, and the oil is replenished. So this is insurance for the American taxpayer. We take the best possible bid. But most importantly, what we're doing is we're - we are not selling. We're not depleting the reserve. We're putting more oil on the market under favorable market conditions. And I think the American people, you - we will build about three million to five million barrels of distillate that can be used for the East Coast and other parts of the country with this move.
Schieffer: Let me just g - go back to Senator Hagel, because while you make some very good points about this may be bad policy, but in the meantime and between time, what are you going to do for those folks up in the East that are going to be paying these high prices for home heating oil?
Hagel: Well - well - well, there's a program that was set up a few years ago and I know that the president has now moved to add $400 million to that program, and it's called the Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program. And that's to direct resources to people who can't afford these prices. Now that's still only part of the problem. The - the - the - the real basic problem, as I said, is - is the supply of that heating oil. And you - you can take all the crude you want out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but if you can't get it refined in time and get it distributed to where it needs to be distributed, it won't make any difference. And so what the secretary is saying, I - I - I don't quite see the connection here as to how the reality of this is going to work.
Richardson: Well, I think the senator has given the perfect answer as to why we need to do it now. We're trying to prepare for this winter. A potential supply problem, where in New England, it's 65 less percent than a year ago and - and...
Schieffer: But are - do you think you're going to bring prices down? I mean, can you give people assurance that they are coming down?
Richardson: Well - well, our - our objective is mainly to deawith disruption. But it is clear, even before we announced it, that prices went down to about $32. It was up at about $38. Our objective is not to manipulate prices, but there is a tightness in the market and we do welcome a moderation of prices. That's part of the whole problem.
Hagel: But there's - but - but you are leaving yourself very vulnerable by drawing that reserve down, and - and we have no control over Saddam Hussein. And that 60 percent of the crude that comes in from foreign sources...
Richardson: But here's the point, though, Senator.
Hagel: ...and there is - and there is no insurance policy. As a matter of fact, you're leaving us very vulnerable when you do that.
Richardson: First of all, we're not depleting the reserve, because the barrels of oil, by contract, will have to come back. And secondly, as I said, with - with Saddam Hussein, he thinks he's blackmailing us. The reality is that other countries in the Gulf will make up that slack or we have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to use, so - which we have not depleted. We have 571 million barrels. And thirdly, there are other countries in the world that would be affected by a supply disruption: the European Union...
Hagel: But, Bill, you can't speak for the other countries. You just said they'll make it up. You - you can't speak for the OPEC nations that - that ha - have so much control over this.
Richardson: Well, nobod - we have worked this very carefully with OPEC. If you look at OPEC's reaction, it's an understanding reaction of what we've done.
Schieffer: All right. I'm sorry. We just have to end it there. A very enlightening discussion. Thanks to both of you for being here. When we come back, we're going to talk about Campaign 2000 some more and this whole issue of the crucial women's vote, in a minute.
Schieffer: Joining us now from Dallas, Texas, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. With us in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Andrew Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Center. Here in our studio, Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln. Very nice to have you, your first appearance here on Face The Nation.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.): Thank you. Delighted to be with you, Bob, Gloria.
Schieffer: We're - we're very happy to have you. Well, we're going to talk a little bit this morning about the women's vote, which is turning up to be crucial. And anybody who thinks it's not was not watching television these last couple of weeks, because here the candidates were on Oprah, here they were on Regis. They were really reaching out for the women's votes, so much so that my friend Gloria Borger here wrote in her column in U.S. News & World Report - I just want to quote the last paragraph. She said, 'Can women stand any more courtship? Which candidate will be the first to cook with Martha Stewart or to execise with Richard Simmons? Campaigns, beware. Women may like flirty men, but we don't like to marry them.' So that should start us off on this discussion.
Andrew Kohut, what's going on with the women's vote here? Because we've seen a shift - haven't we? - as - as the campaign has gone along?
Andrew Kohut, Pew Research Center director: We certainly have. Women have come to Gore as the Democratic base has been unified, and women in our poll, at least, give Gore a 13-point lead, and men just prefer Bush by a small margin, which is - is really the story of this election. When Gore is ahead, he has this big lead among Gore - among women and breaks e - and Gore - and Bush has a small lead among men. And then when Bush is ahead, the women's lead deflates and the men's lead inflates. So not only should women be given attention, but men as well, because they have been vacillating over the past few months as w - almost as much as women.
Borger: Well, let - let me ask you, Senator Hutchison, about women. Clearly the group that everybody is looking at is married women, particularly married women with children, because originally, they're the group that really supported Governor Bush. They care, it seems to me, more - more about character. And now they seem to be - to be moving away from - from Governor Bush. Why do you think that's happening?
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.): Well, I think Governor Bush is strongest with married women, but where he is having trouble is with older women and single women. And I think that's where he - we need to have Governor Bush's - Bush's message out. He is going to be very strong in education. That's where his record is so good, where he goes in and gets children at the third-grade level, if they're behind, rather than waiting until they're high school dropouts. And with single women, he's very strong in strengthening Social Security and also making sure that we have pension makeup for working women as they go in and out of the workplace.
Schieffer: Well, let me - let's turn to Senator Lincoln, because you're not only a senator, you're a mom, the mother of - what? - four-year-old twins.
Lincoln: That's right.
Schieffer: And that's exactly - Senator Hutchison makes a very good point, because that's exactly what polls, including Andrew Kohut's, show, that it is married mothers who are still kind of favoring Governor Bush, but it is the single women who seem to be shifting toward Gore. Why do you think that is?
Lincoln: I think there are several reasons. First of all, you - you have single women who are dependent on themselves. They understand how important it is to have a partner in government. They understand how important it is to have good leadership on the issues that are important to them - health care, for instance, which is absolutely a critical issue to single women who may be working or who even aren't, maybe in schol. Without a doubt, the issue of Social Security is important to them as well. But you've got these defecting moms, which I happen to be in that category - I'm not defecting; I'm very supportive of the vice president, but that category of - of married women with children who vote with their head and not necessarily their heart. They've come to know Vice President Gore better since the convention and they're beginning to understand these issues and - and - and how good Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman have been on those issues of educating their children, preschool, which they've made a big issue, health care and certainly prescription drugs for our parents.
Schieffer: Andy Kohut, could women decide this election? Will they be the deciding factor?
Kohut: Well, certainly they can. In fact, if Gore wins this election, he's going to have - his victory is going to be based upon a big win among women, just as Bill Clinton's was in 1996 and in 1992. If Bush wins, it's - it's because he's going to have a big lead among men. It's almost inconceivable to men me that Bush could win with a big lead among women or - or Gore vice versa.
Borger: Senator Hutchison, why is it, do you think, that - that Governor Bush is suddenly having a difficult time holding on to this constituency of married women? What issues is it? Or is it about the fact that Gores trust and leadership numbers have risen over the last couple of months?
Hutchison: Well, Gloria, I thought the interesting point in the Pew poll that you're talking about is the - the basic question: who would be the strongest leader? Governor Bush comes out on top. So I think people see him as a person willing to take risks, even if it - if it's not a popular thing, and do the right thing. So now I think we have to come back with the issues that are important to women and show his strength as a leader on those issues. And I think Social Security is one of the key issues where he says, 'I want every working person to have a part of this economy if they choose to do it. If they choose to stay in Social Security just as it is now, we're going to strengthen that.' But if they want to have two percent of their 12 percent going into a choice, to be able to invest in the economy they are creating, then he wants them to be able do that and have more stability. He wants people to be able...
Schieffer: ...let - let me just interrupt you for a minute because I want to ask both of you this question. As women, do you find it a little bit degrading to see the candidates going on some of these shows? And - and - and, I mean, I think Oprah Winfrey is just terrific. I love Regis Philbin and all of that, but Senator Lincoln, what - what about that? Is that kind of playing down to women when we see this kind of campaigning?
Lincoln: Oh, I don't know. I don't particulary watch those programs, but I don't watch a whole lot of television unless it's...
Schieffer: Except for Face The Nation.
Lincoln: Face The Nation, of course. Exactly.
Lincoln: But I think that it's reaching out to a group of women that do watch those programs and that do find them informative. And I think as long as they stay on the issues and talk about the subjects and the details of their programs - because when you talk about Social Security - you talk about what Senator Hutchison just men - mentioned, there's no way that he can do that unless he starts making some really difficult decisions about increasing the age, or making - or - or what we're going to be able to provide to our seniors today. So as long as they get into the details of those issues, I don't have a problem with them going on the programs.
Schieffer: Well, Senator Hutchison, do you think it's a way for them to avoid the issues because they talk about what their favorite food is and things of that nature?
Hutchison: Well, let me first say that the reason that we are holding the Social Security surplus intact is so that there will be the transition money, and Governor Bush would not raise the age, absolutely not.
But on your point, Bob, I think it's rounding out. You know, we now have television and - and we have a different era than we did 15 years ago. So now people are looking at personality. They're looking at family lifestyle. They're looking at the kinds of people these - these candidates are. And so I think this is part of the rounding-out process. I mean, do you like your peanut butter and jelly on white bread or wheat bread? That's just becoming part of our American culture.
Schieffer: All right. Well, I want to thank both of you. Both of these candidates could do a lot worse than having you two as advocates for their cause. Thanks to both of you.
Hutchison: Thank you, Bob.
Lincoln:Thank you, Bob.
Schieffer: We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.
Schieffer: Finally today, I've always tried not to criticize competitors. No matter how you put it, criticism always comes off as a little cheesy, as if youre jealous or trying to take advantage. But try as I might, I just can't make heads or tails of the Olympics this year. I know NBC is trying hard and it is not their fault. The Games are being played 80 time zones from my house. But it's just too much for a fellow my age. I can't figure out when the Games are being played. Sometimes they're on cable, sometimes they're on the network. And then once I find an event, it seems like I read about it in the paper last week. Even the NBC people are starting to notice. I heard Leno say his network is now sharing The History Channel slogan, 'We bring the past alive for you.'
I any case, we have never had Olympics this deep into a presidential campaign, and a month ago all the politicians were worried. They wondered if people would be so glued to Olympic coverage, they'd forget who Bush and Gore were. Well, the short answer is no. I've heard more talk about George Bush kissing Oprah than I have about the Olympics. This may be a fairly dull political campaign, but the only thing distracting about this year's Olympic Games so far is trying to figure out when they happen, and by the time you find out, it doesn't seem to matter much. Maybe it'll get better. But until we get closer to home with the Olympics, I'm sticking to baseball. Oh, one other thing: I don't like those shark-skin swimsuits either.
From Face The Nation in Washington, that's it for this week. We'll see you next week.