SEATTLE – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search), visiting a swing state with rising prices at the gasoline pump, is blaming President Bush's foreign policy for high energy prices he says endanger national security.
"Instability and danger in the Middle East are driving up the price of oil," the Massachusetts senator said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday in Seattle.
"We don't have to be trapped by the fear that some terrorist or foreign government will hold our economy hostage by seizing control of the oil we depend on," Kerry said. "With America's can-do spirit and a president who leads, we can be freer, we can be stronger and we can live in an energy independent America."
Kerry is on a three-day campaign swing in Oregon and Washington, two presidential battleground states that also have some of the nation's highest gas prices.
"What about the Saudi-George Bush gasoline tax that we're now paying because OPEC (search) wasn't pressured to lower the prices by producing more?" Kerry asked Tuesday during a stop in Portland, Ore. "They could've produced more before now. And America's paying an enormous penalty as a result of that and all of our economy gets hurt as a result of that."
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry has opposed legislation that would reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Kerry opposes Bush's energy bill in part because he does not support drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. While Bush wants to tap domestic sources of oil, Kerry wants to divert temporarily oil being used to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (search) and bring it to market to help reduce prices. He says his administration would demand that other oil-producing nations increase supply.
Kerry, speaking the day after Bush sought to rally international support in Iraq, also said he has "a level of trust" with foreign leaders that would allow him to repair relationships in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
Kerry, noting his nearly 20 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he has met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah and Jordan's King Abdullah II, among others in the region.
"I have a relationship that I believe if I were president, I could sit down with them with a level of trust that would allow us to begin an entirely new dialogue," he said.
Schmidt said Kerry creates a false impression by repeatedly referring to his relationships with foreign leaders as if they were ongoing.
"During this campaign, John Kerry has repeatedly referenced his support from mysterious, unnamed foreign leaders that he says he meets in restaurants in New York City," Schmidt said. "But his assertions seem to lack any basis in fact."