The suggestion that the Saudi government and Bush administration struck a deal to lower U.S. gasoline prices before the 2004 election seemed like one of the more explosive allegations made by Bob Woodward in his new book and media blitz.
But Woodward explained yesterday that he never said there was any secret deal. And he never said the Saudis' plans were explicitly linked to an effort to reelect Bush.
Here are Mike Wallace and Woodward on CBS's 60 Minutes" Sunday night, discussing Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States and a confidant of the Bush family:
"WALLACE: Prince Bandar enjoys easy access to the Oval Office. His family and the Bush family are close. And Woodward told us that Bandar has promised the president that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election to ensure the US economy is strong on Election Day.
"And you also say, 'Bandar wanted Bush to know that the Saudis hoped to fine-tune oil prices to prime the economy in 2004. What was key, Bandar understood, were the economic conditions before a presidential election.'
"Oil prices are at an all-time high.
"Mr. WOODWARD: They're high, and they could go down very quickly. That's the Saudi pledge. Certainly over the summer or as we get closer to the election, they increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly."
But on CNN's "Larry King Live" last night, Woodward explained that he never suggested that there was any covert deal.