Jonah Goldberg

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was a sideshow, a distraction, a sham and a shame. So sayeth many of the brightest stars in punditry. How sad that we wasted so much time on what Sebastian Mallaby of the Washington Post called an “absurd digression.” Barack Obama himself frets that we are “caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics,” which “trivializes the profound issues.” Yes, by all means, the profound issues are what the campaigners should grapple with. Grapple away on matters of substance and policy. Bread-and-butter concerns. Kitchen-table topics and pocketbook issues.

And what are those? Well, according to Obama and Clinton alike, gas prices top the list.

On ABC’s “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos opened an interview with Clinton by asking how she can defend her proposal to suspend the federal gas tax for the summer when everyone knows it won’t lower gas prices. “Nearly every editorial board and economist in the country has come out against it,” Stephanopoulos noted. “Even a supporter of yours, Paul Krugman of the New York Times, calls it pointless and disappointing.”

Her response in a nutshell: Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care.

Clinton says she doesn’t mind if economists agree that her proposal would do nothing to alleviate high gas prices. Indeed, when Stephanopoulos pressed her to name one — just one! — credible economist who thinks this idea has merit, she responded: “Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to put my lot in with economists.” Instead, she explained, she’s going to break with the “government power and elite opinion” and side with the little guy.

Unlike the proposal by John McCain, who also stupidly supports a gas-tax “holiday,” the Clinton plan has the added benefit of punishing those evil oil companies by making them pay the tax, even though those pointy-headed economists say it will actually reward them. Big Oil would simply pass that cost back to consumers, and the “holiday” would artificially hike demand for gas so that pump prices would jump right back up. But never mind all that.

Oh, let’s also point out that, as a matter of political reality, Clinton might as well be calling for a ban on the use of unicorn meat in dog food, because there is no way her proposal can actually, you know, happen.

Now, in fairness, we should point out that Obama opposes the Clinton-McCain proposal for many of the reasons stated above, and that speaks well of him.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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