Biden calls malarkey on people blaming him for high gas prices. He has a point.
Also: Russia disagrees with Trump's "tough on Russia" claims.
To hear Fox News and elected Republicans tell it, record high gas prices are almost entirely President Biden’s fault. This isn’t a surprising line of attack — these people blame everything on Biden — but it’s an effective one, with polling indicating inflation is top of mind for voters.
So, on Wednesday, Biden tried to push back. He posted a tweet pointing out that even as the price of crude oil has fallen this month, gas prices have stayed high — the implication being that price gouging is going on.
“Oil and gas companies shouldn’t pad their profits at the expense of hardworking Americans,” the tweet says.
To be clear, there are reasons high gas prices lag behind falling oil prices that can’t be reduced to gouging. If a gas station pays pays a high price for fuel, they pass that cost along to consumers, regardless of whether oil prices have fallen in the meantime. The price won’t fall the next day. That’s basic capitalism, for better or worse.
“The fact is, gasoline prices are extremely mysterious and complicated and there's probably a lot more involved than ‘greed,’” David Roberts, author of the Volts newsletter, told me in a DM exchange. “If anyone understood them, they'd be able to predict them, and no one ever can.”
But Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, a nonpartisan watchdog organization that released research Wednesday blaming “big oil” for high gas prices, argued Biden is basically on point.
“I think the facts speak for themselves,” he told me. “Last year alone, with gas prices booming, oil and gas companies raked in over $205 billion in profits, many of these companies posting their biggest increases in almost a decade. I think oil and gas companies are pointing blame all over the place for rising prices — the war in Ukraine, the Biden administration’s public leasing policies — but at the end of the day, they’re still padding their bottom lines.”
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Herrig also criticized media coverage that reduces gas prices to a political cudgel to attack Biden.
“I think it’s disingenuous to say that if we just opened drilling more and more in the US than anything would happen to prices, in the short term especially,” he said. “Oil and gas companies as sitting on nearly 9,000 unused leases, but yet they’re asking for more and more.” (Biden has actually outpaced Trump in approving drilling on public lands.)
On Tuesday, the New York Times’s Linda Qiu published a fact-check article headlined “Republicans Wrongly Blame Biden for Rising Gas Prices” that echoes what Herrig and Roberts told me, and adds to it.
“The primary reason for rising gas prices over the past year is the coronavirus pandemic and its disruptions to global supply and demand,” Qiu writes. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine [and Biden’s ban on Russia energy imports] has only compounded the issues … moreover, the specific policies cited by Republican lawmakers as evidence of Mr. Biden’s supposed ‘war on American energy’ have had little impact on rising gas prices.”
I asked Roberts what Biden can do unilaterally to bring prices down in the short term. He said “there’s just not a ton he can do.”
“He's being battered around by global forces that he can't control,” Roberts said. “The decisions he's made on the margins, about oil and gas leases, etc., don't have that big an effect. The GOP just loves to demagogue them.”
On that score, it’s worth noting that US oil production in Biden’s first year in office was actually on par with Trump’s last year. But Roberts pointed out that if Biden wants to bring down American energy costs in the medium- to long-term, the best thing he can do is “boost fuel efficiency standards and encourage the production of electric vehicles.”
Now that he has no authority, Trump is ready to talk tough on Russia
In a new Washington Examiner interview, Donald Trump makes his now familiar, extremely dubious claim about being tougher on Russia than any other president.
“When you think of it, who was tougher on Russia than me?” he said.
That’s apparently news to Russia.
On Wednesday, the Kremlin sanctioned 12 Americans in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the US following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The list includes President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, press secretary Jen Psaki, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Biden’s son Hunter, of all people. It’s almost like whoever came up with it watches Fox.
Conspicuous by his absence, however, is Trump. In fact, no former Trump administration officials — or Republicans — appear on the list at all.
It’s almost like all this talk of being so tough on Russia is a bunch of malarkey.
Psaki didn’t seem too torn up about being sanctioned by Putin during Tuesday’s White House press briefing, quipping that “none of us are planning tourist trips to Russia.”
For what it’s worth, Russia has always been on my bucket list of countries in the world I’d like to visit, but I’ll definitely wait until Putin is out of power, at the very least. Perhaps once the war is over, I’ll try to visit Ukraine instead.
Trump mourns the loss of the Vlad he used to know and love
One notable tidbit from the aforementioned Washington Examiner interview is Trump changing his tone on Putin. After years of making excuses for the Russian strongman, including occasional outright praise, Trump now says “he’s changed.”
From the piece:
“I’m surprised — I’m surprised. I thought he was negotiating when he sent his troops to the border. I thought he was negotiating,” Trump told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday evening during a wide-ranging telephone interview from Mar-a-Lago, his private social club and political headquarters in Palm Beach, Florida. “I thought it was a tough way to negotiate but a smart way to negotiate.
I figured he was going to make a good deal like everybody else does with the United States and the other people they tend to deal with — you know, like every trade deal. We’ve never made a good trade deal until I came along,” Trump added. “And then he went in — and I think he’s changed. I think he’s changed. It’s a very sad thing for the world. He’s very much changed.”
It’s debatable how much Putin has actually changed. He solidified his hold on power following the 1999 apartment bombings in Russia — attacks widely suspected to be false flag attacks and that Putin used as a pretext for the brutal crushing of the Chechen separatist movement. He invaded Ukraine for the first time in 2014, interfered in the US presidential election on Trump’s behalf two years later, and all the while has ruled over a political culture where real dissent isn’t tolerated and mysterious poisonings and assassinations regularly victimize people who publicly speak out against him. This is who he is.
What has changed, however, is that by behaving like a bloodthirsty maniac with his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Putin has united the free world against him more than ever before, and has lost any plausible deniability about what he stands for. Trump initially responded to the attack by characterizing Putin as “[a] genius,” “very savvy,” and “smart,” but now even he seems to understand which way the wind is blowing.
And as if to prove that he’s still willing to do Putin’s bidding, even as he distances himself rhetorically, Trump released a lie-filled speech slagging off NATO on Wednesday, just as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was wrapping up his moving speech to Congress.
This video of Brian Holmes, a journalist at the KTVB TV station in Boise, pressing Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin about why she participated in event hosted by white nationalist Nick Fuentes is a must-watch.
It’s strange how Republicans like McGeachin and Marjorie Taylor Greene keep agreeing to speak at Fuentes events despite purportedly knowing nothing about him, isn’t it?
That’s it for today!
And barring breaking news, that’s it for me this week. If you don’t hear from me until next Monday, have a great weekend!