To put this speach in proper context, it helps to start with the current situation in Saudi Arabia, so here's a short list:
1. The most popular man in Saudia Arabia is Osama bin Laden. Opinion polls are putting him in the 70% to 80% approval range.
2. The government of Saudia Arabia is nominally under the control of a very ill King. Actual control is with two feuding brothers. One brother is very likely our friend. The other, despite recent backtracking, is very likely our enemy.
3. Regardless of which brother ultimately wins out, the people of Saudi Arabia consider their government corrupt to the core. Bin Laden has been attempting to overthrow the government, and may even have come close in November.
4. Wealthy Saudis are the source of Bin Laden's money. The majority of the attackers on 9-11 were Saudis. The Wahabbi sect of Islam, the official religion of Saudi Arabia, is arguably the most extreme version of Islam.
5. If Saudi Arabia turned against us, we would have a problem protecting the people we had in-country at the time. We would also have a problem protecting the equipment based there. Any equipment we lose would be used against us in the future.
6. We would rather not have to fight more nations, all at once, than we have to. If we have to fight Saudi Arabia, we run the additional risk of unifying all Islam against us because Mecca is in their country. However, if we eventually have to fight them, why would we want to start with a lot of our people at risk, and an immense amount of very valuable equipment that they can easily capture?
CONCLUSION: The REAL significance of this article is the political signal Levin sent. He is the most powerful Democrat in this arena. He just sent the clear signal that if Bush wants to pull out of Saudi Arabia, the Democrats will support the move.
The WAY the message was sent is also very significant. He sent the signal in a high profile, public way. This puts him on record much more effectively than if he gave a promise behind closed doors. It also sends the message to two other groups that need to hear it: The Saudis (for obvious reasons); The Democrats (don't fight Bush on this).
Making it clear to the Saudis that Bush can pull out of Saudi Arabia without Democrat opposition strengthens Bush's hand enormously. When he talks turkey to the Saudis, they need know he is not bluffing. WE know he is not, but the message needs to be crystal clear to people who are used to a United States led by Billy boy. Just in case they think it is business as usual, this helps convince them otherwise.
Ultimately, this has strengthened Bush's hand. This means are LESS likely to have a problem with the Saudis, not more. You can bet that what he said was known and approved by the Bush administration in advance. Bravo for both of them.
BTW: If in the end we simply cannot avoid fighting Saudi Arabia, and we lose their oil for a time as a result, we will not suffer nearly as much as many people think. The world has enough surplus oil production capacity to make up the entire shortfall if Saudi production went to zero. The only way we have a crunch if the rest of the Islamic nations that produce oil also cut off the flow of oil at the same time. That would mean Bin Laden had succeeded in unifying all of Islam against us, and the world be in the midst of the worst war the world has ever seen.