Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, March 16, 2012

One of the more amusing things in politics is how badly rising gas prices have flummoxed the president and his administration.

For example, not that long ago Obama’s Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, was calling for ramping up gasoline taxes in order to encourage consumers into buying more efficient cars and living in neighborhoods closer to work. “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” Chu said. (The prices in Europe are around $8-$10 a gallon.) But in a congressional hearing earlier this week, Chu painfully and awkwardly recanted. “I no longer share that view,” Chu declared. After his Senate hearing Chu even went on to say, “there are many, many reasons why we do not want the price of gasoline to go up.”

So the scales have fallen from the energy secretary’s eyes. But not his alone.

In 2008, Barack Obama was clearly sympathetic to higher gas prices; he simply wanted the increase to be “gradual” rather than for consumers to face a “shock.” Yet earlier this year, when Obama was asked by Fox’s Ed Henry whether he wanted higher gas prices, Obama mocked the question and insisted he wanted lower prices. (Obama often gets prickly and condescending when he’s caught directly contradicting his past statements.)

Then there’s the issue of drilling. Once upon a time, Obama was a critic of drilling and had a jolly good time ridiculing those who advocated it. Now he’s giving speeches in which he’s taking great pride in the drilling that’s occurring in America. What he won’t tell you is that the increase in drilling is happening on private, not public, lands, and that it’s happening in spite of Obama’s efforts, not because of them.

The president knows all this. He’s not a stupid man; he’s just a thoroughly cynical one. And so Obama is doing the best he can to pretend (a) he and his administration didn’t hold views they clearly did and (b) mislead people to think he’s responsible for things he has no legitimate claim to. And what makes this whole charade particularly Obamaesque is that while acting in the most cynical way imaginable, the president lectures his opponents about cynicism.

He’s quite a piece of work, this president.

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