A newspaper reporter called me recently to discuss the reasons behind rising gas prices. After I explained the various factors that are increasing your pain at the pump, the reporter asked me if high gas prices going into the November election would affect President Obama’s re-election chances. My first impulse was to say, “Let’s hope so.” But after many years of being quoted and misquoted in the press, I have learned to choose my words carefully. Therefore, I responded that high gas prices just before the election represent a “worst-case scenario for President Obama.”
My quote was a statement of so obvious a political reality that I expected no pushback from it. After all, rightly or wrongly, Americans do tend to blame the president—regardless of his political party—for their economic woes. Blaming the president is just what Americans do. In fact, I sometimes think that one of the main reasons we elect presidents is so we will have someone to blame when things go wrong (the buck stops here). Consequently, I was surprised a few days later to open my local newspaper and read in the masthead editorial that I am a heel for blaming rising gas prices on President Obama. The editor even implied that I am one of those conspiracy theorists who blame President Obama for everything from warts to tooth decay.
Readers of Patriot Update know that I am no supporter of Barack Obama’s economic and energy policies, but conspiracy theorist? The only conspiracy I am part of is that “great right wing conspiracy” alluded to by then First Lady Hillary Clinton. The editor who took issue with my quote attempted to make the point that President Obama should not be blamed for high gas prices. His contention was that presidents have little, in any, influence on the price of gas. In reality, my quote this editor took issue with did not say that Barack Obama is responsible for rising gas prices, just that his re-election is not helped by them. But had the editor asked me, I would have told him that not only do a lot of Americans blame President Obama for high gas prices—I among them—they have every reason to.
There has not been a president since Jimmy Carter who can so fairly and accurately be blamed—at least in part—for the ever-increasing price of gas than Barack Obama. Why? The answer is simple: Because oil is a speculative commodity. The cost of a barrel of oil is directly affected by speculation over future supply and demand. This means that speculation over future supply and demand affects the cost of oil and, in turn, gasoline. Any action by the president that could be viewed as limiting future supplies of oil will tend to increase the price of oil. This is economics 101.