HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Vice President Dick Cheney (search) said Tuesday that rising consumption and decreasing domestic production have led to high gasoline prices but also blamed his Democratic opponents and their opposition to the Bush administration's energy policies.
The Bush-Cheney campaign accuses Senate Democrats of blocking a Bush energy plan that would increase petroleum drilling and energy conservation and provide new tax breaks and other incentives to spur exploration and production.
Cheney advocated increasing domestic oil production in wildlife areas in Alaska and other regions that are off-limits to development.
"We have put ourselves into a box. The only thing I can think of to do is to keep pushing for a comprehensive energy policy," he said. "We are at the mercy of those international oil prices."
Phil Singer, a spokesman for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, dismissed the president's energy plan as a hodgepodge favoring special interests that would have a negligible effect on gas prices.
"This is a disingenuous, misleading charge by a vice president whose credibility is running out by the minute," he said.
Cheney, making his third trip to Arkansas this year, also criticized Democratic filibusters that have blocked consideration of Bush appointees to the bench.
"Anybody that might disagree with their liberal philosophy doesn't get to come to the floor of the Senate for a vote, and that's just wrong," he told a hand-picked audience of supporters in response to their questions. One questioner accused federal judges of legislating from the bench.
"The vast majority of Americans believe this is one nation under God, and we believe we ought to be able to say that when we pledge allegiance to the flag," Cheney said.
Cheney said Bush's re-election is crucial to making America safer.
"This campaign is about what kind of strategy (voters) want. Do they think the president and the rest of us who serve him are on the right track?" he asked. "Sometimes the other team is stuck in the pre-9/11 mentality. They haven't made the transition."
Cheney spoke from a podium that was in sight of a handful of protesters who marched outside the Convention Center, some carrying signs that included a reference to Bush, Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft as "the axis of evil."
Edwards, meanwhile, arrived in Arkansas with his wife and two young children Tuesday evening for an appearance Wednesday in North Little Rock.