Let them eat cake." That's what Marie Antoinette, the queen who lost her head during the French Revolution, is said to have responded when she was told the peasants had no bread.
She never said that. Antonia Fraser, who wrote a biography of the unlucky queen, said the callous remark actually had been made a century before by Marie-Therese, wife of King Louis XIV.
But President Barack Obama did tell an American worried about gasoline prices that he should buy a new car: "If you're complaining about the price of gas and you're only getting eight miles a gallon, you might want to think about a trade-in," Mr. Obama joked in response to a questioner at a campaign stop near Philadelphia April 6.
It apparently didn't occur to the president that people for whom it is a hardship to pay a dollar more a gallon for gasoline can't afford to buy a new car.
The remark makes Mr. Obama sound clueless, or callous, or both, but most of the journalists who covered his visit to Gamesa Technology Corp. didn't report this exchange. They couldn't drop it entirely down the memory hole, though. Blogger Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) made a screen grab of the initial AP story that reported it. Video of the exchange was posted on YouTube.
Gas prices have doubled since Barack Obama became president. With wages stagnant, unemployment high and food prices rising at the fastest rate since the 1970s, this imposes real hardship on many Americans.
It also means our moribund economy is likely to fall back into recession. When the real price of oil doubles within a year, GDP almost always declines, noted James Cooper in the Fiscal Times Monday.
Oil prices are rising because (a) the value of the dollar is declining, which makes everything we import more expensive; (b) the Middle East, where most of the world's oil is produced, is in turmoil; and (c) because the Obama administration has sharply restricted oil drilling at home. Gasoline prices could be cut in half within a few years if those restrictions were lifted, according to Rep. Joe Barton, R-Tex, a former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The price of gas is a dollar a gallon higher now than it was at this time a year ago. Most of the rise has come since Mr. Obama imposed a partial ban on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
The last oil price spike ended on July 14, 2008, which, noted Will Collier, "was the very same day then President George W. Bush lifted, by executive order, a federal ban on offshore drilling."
The price of oil began to rise again in January 2009, which, coincidentally, was the month Mr. Obama announced he would reverse Mr. Bush's order.
But only 1 percent of the oil price stories on the evening newscasts of ABC, NBC and CBS since the drilling moratorium was imposed have mentioned there might be a connection between administration policy and rising gasoline prices, noted the Business & Media Institute.
The president also bears much of the blame for the other reasons why oil prices are soaring.
Mr. Obama has added trillions to our massive national debt, which is the most important reason the dollar is losing value.
Unrest in the Middle East has been made worse by the weakness of Mr. Obama's foreign policy, which, in the case of Libya, one of his advisers described as "leading from behind."
At least some of the president's advisers want gas prices to go higher so the "green" technologies they fancy will seem less uneconomical. "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," Steven Chu, his secretary of energy, told the Wall Street Journal in December 2008.
Our gas prices are getting closer to those in Europe, currently about $10 a gallon. But even with massive subsidies, "green" technologies can't compete.
Last May Mr. Obama spoke at Solyndra, a California company that manufactures solar panels and which received $533 million from the stimulus bill. Six months later, Solyndra announced it was closing its old plant, delaying construction of a new one and laying off workers.
The president may not mind higher gasoline prices, but he doesn't want to take the blame for them. So he's pretending to do something about them, while actually doing nothing. Attorney General Eric Holder will investigate whether "speculators" have been driving up prices, Mr. Obama has announced.
This is like O.J. Simpson's search for "the real killers." But the irony is lost on most in the "mainstream" media.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio ( firstname.lastname@example.org , 412 263-1476).