The candidate can't be bothered with something as boring as world market forces when there are demagogic points to be scored. "Those aren't Exxon prices we see, ladies and gentlemen," Kerry tells audiences. "Those are Halliburton prices." Halliburton, of course, is the all-purpose Democratic bogeyman. It has about as much to do with the spiking gas prices as Walt Disney Co.
If Kerry were consistent -- a seemingly unattainable aspiration -- he would welcome the increased gas prices. He has throughout his career advocated higher gas taxes, precisely to exact more economic pain from Americans at the pump to force them to drive less and buy smaller cars. Now, the market is doing his work for him, and he's complaining and pointing fingers at Bush. Kerry's surrogates have been calling on Bush to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the several hundred million barrels the United States keeps on hand in case of a catastrophic disruption in oil supply. In the past, Kerry has opposed trying to use the reserve to tamp down gas prices on the margins, but that was before his new iteration as a pretend economic ignoramus.
Bush brought some of this demagoguery on himself by criticizing Bill Clinton for not jawboning OPEC enough when gas prices increased in the summer of 2000. He can take comfort in the fact that gas prices usually decline in the fall, when Americans drive less. Then Kerry, who has suspended his belief in the market, will have to attribute the drop to the bold leadership of Bush, with an assist, of course, from Halliburton.