COLUMN: Biden hides behind Ukraine pain

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into banning Russian oil imports. Even then, he still fell short -- imposing a “ban” that restricts U.S. imports, rather than “sanctions” to restrict Russian exports to the entire world. Big difference. And it came only after companies began self-sanctioning -- divesting Russian energy. Biden simply made virtue out of necessity.

But as reluctant as he was to ban Russian oil, it took Biden no time at all to start blaming Russia for rising gasoline prices. “Since [Russian President Vladimir] Putin began his military buildup at Ukrainian borders . . . the price of gas at the pump in America went up 75 cents,” Biden said Tuesday in his announcement of the oil ban. When asked what he could do about rising prices, he replied, “Can’t do much right now. Russia is responsible.”

The White House even came up with a slogan -- “Putin price hike” -- and tried to make it trend as a hashtag. “This is the #PutinPriceHike in action,” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield tweeted.

This is disgusting. Biden is refusing to send Polish MiG fighter jets to Ukraine to try to stop Russia from carrying out atrocities such as the bombing Wednesday of a maternity hospital. But he is willing to take political advantage of the suffering of the Ukrainian people, and use it as political cover for his massive domestic policy failures.

Biden blames Russia for a 75-cent rise in gas prices. But the price has risen $1.85 since he took office. The week before Biden’s inauguration, the price of a gallon of regular gas in the United States was $2.46; at this writing it is $4.32. Before the war in Ukraine, Biden presided over the largest year-over-year price rise in at least 30 years.

What drove those record price spikes? We can start with Biden’s war on fossil fuels. Upon taking office, Biden implemented a policy of energy disarmament. He rejoined the Paris climate agreement, canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, suspended all oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and began working on his pledge to ban all “new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” He came into office having promised that his administration would “end fossil fuel.”

When you announce your intention to tax and regulate the fossil fuel industry out of existence, investors and workers listen. The results are less production -- and higher prices.

Then there is his American Rescue Plan -- the $1.9 trillion social spending boondoggle disguised as “pandemic relief.” It shoveled so much money into the economy that the demand side overheated while the supply side could not keep up -- unleashing a supply-chain crisis, the worst inflation in 40 years and a record labor shortage, with more than 11 million unfilled jobs. The economic headwinds Biden unleashed have hit the oil and gas industry as hard as every other business in America. It’s hard to drill for oil and gas when you can’t find workers.

Biden’s defenders say it is unfair to blame him because gas prices were artificially low when he took office last year because of the pandemic. Sorry, when the first confirmed covid case hit our shores in January 2020, gas was $2.59 a gallon -- not much more than when Biden took office. It never rose above $3.04 during all of Donald Trump’s presidency.Biden broke that threshold in four months -- long before Putin invaded Ukraine.

So, the prewar rise in gas prices is the tax we pay for Biden’s disastrous climate and social welfare policies. And the rest? Instead of the “Putin price hike,” his administration should call it the “Biden weakness tax.” It is no coincidence that Putin invaded Ukraine just months after Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which projected weakness on the world stage.

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Follow Marc A. Thiessen on Twitter, @marcthiessen.

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