Well, turns out all the doubt, debate, and discussion about Bush’s oil pledge was beside the point:

One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America’s dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn’t mean it literally.

Let it sink in … give it a second … don’t fight it … theeere it is.

It was just a figure of speech! An old saw. An aphorism, you might call it. You know, like how they say.

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Not that kind of 75%-by-2025, the kind you were thinking, with the 75% and the 2025. More like a metaphor.

What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.

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But America still would import oil from the Middle East, because that’s where the greatest oil supplies are.

Uh … but … I mean, that’s exactly the …

[Bush] pledged to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."

Not exactly, though, it turns out.

"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.

It was an … we aren’t … what …

He said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private firms. Consequently, it would be very difficult to reduce imports from any single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth.

Well then why …

Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn’t really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.

So he told the nation he would reduce imports from the Middle East to help them understand that he would reduce imports, just not from the Middle East.

And through the looking glass we go. Whee!

(Hat tip to Navin from Environmental Action)