Obama bashed over Koran apololgy, gas prices

One day after beating up on each other at a debate, Republicans tried to refocus on their ultimate goal: beating President Obama in November.

Their ammunition: rising gas prices, and a presidential apology.

The apology came in a letter Mr. Obama sent Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He apologized for American troops burning Korans at the largest U.S. air base in Afghanistan.

That's just one of two issues that caused Republicans to pounce.

"I think this is an astonishing day," said Newt Gingrich, who was fired up over the president's formal apology. "There seems to be nothing that radical Islamists can do to get Barack Obama's attention in a negative way."

Fueling Gingrich's comments -- news that two U.S. troops had been killed in retaliation. "The president apologized for the burning," Gingrich pointed out. "But I haven't seen the president demand that the government of Afghanistan apologize for the killing of two young Americans."

White House spokesman Jay Carney explained an apology was important because such incidents put U.S. troops in danger. He also pointed out that President George W. Bush's administration apologized for a similar situation.

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That wasn't the only issue that caused Republicans to lash out.

They also attacked the president after he gave a speech in Florida yesterday on his plan to lower gas prices. The president said, "None of these steps I've talked about today represent the silver bullet that will bring down gas prices tomorrow."

Gingrich took aim at that, saying, "The president of the United States explains, first of all, that there's no single silver bullet. Now that's just wrong. Defeating Obama is a single thing that would change everything."

And Jay Carney battled with House Speaker John Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck over the president's record on oil drilling in the U.S. Buck tweeted that the Obama administration in 2010 had the lowest number of onshore leases issued since 1984.

Mr. Obama hit back, accusing Republicans of politicizing high gas prices during an election year, saying, "Only in politics do people greet bad news so enthusiastically. You pay more, and they're licking their chops?"

If there's no silver bullet, what can the president do to impact gas prices between now and the November election?

The short answer is tamp down expectations. But the White House official answer is a three-part program. You consume less, you drill more, and you develop alternative energy sources.

But they're very concerned (at the White House) about how this could affect the general feeling of improvement and goodwill that seems to surround the president at the moment. They're very aware that other things may come up, unemployment numbers may go up, and they have the sense that things are going the president's way now, but they may not continue to so.

To see Bill Plante's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent