See How They Run

I don’t know whether the Obama administration is truly on the brink of releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to reduce upward pressure on gas prices, in conjunction with the United Kingdom or on his own. I also don’t know if this is the right time to take this step, though it is and obviously should be on the table perpetually, if only to intimidate speculators.

But I do know I enjoy watching Republicans flinch every time the administration makes even a feint in this direction. They have richly earned their distress, having engaged in the most shameful demagoguery on gas prices since at least 2008, implying (a) it is the greatest of all economic problems for the country; that (b) the president can and must act upon immediately, today, yesterday! Sure, if and when Obama acts with the one mechanism he actually controls, the SPR, they will say, as they are already beginning to say preemptively: That’s Not What We Meant! Approve Keystone XL! Abolish EPA! Resign! This makes their rhetoric consistent, at least, with the closely related conservative rap on Iran: Danger! Mullahs! Nukes! Oil Supplies! Let’s blow up the region before something bad happens!

One of the few pleasures, one would think, of the presidency, to offset its many burdens and miseries, is the power to make news instantly by the release of information–or disinformation–from a very different kind of strategic reserve and watch your opponents panic and chase their own tails, without anything real actually having happened. That may or may not be what’s going on with respect to the SPR, but neither do the drillbabydrillers who have placed a pretty large bet on Obama just grinning and bearing it on higher gas prices.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.