High gas prices can prompt political hysteria in the best of times, but when they soar during an election year, the fumes rising from candidate stump speeches can make a person sick. Of the three candidates and the president they're out to replace, only one is telling the truth about oil -- and he may suffer for his political courage.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) unveiled his nonsensical solution to $4-a-gallon gasoline two weeks ago when he proposed suspending the federal excise tax on gas during the peak-travel summer months. Not to be outdone on the pandering front -- and no doubt after seeing poll results showing that high gas prices have topped Iraq among Americans' biggest concerns -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) seconded McCain's motion and spiced it up with a proposal to tax windfall profits of oil companies to make up for the lost gas-tax revenues.
McCain's gas-tax gimmick is about what one would expect from a Republican candidate, given that his party's shortsighted energy policies are partly to blame for the fix we're in today. Rather than supporting conservation measures, such as tougher vehicle fuel standards, the Republicans wasted years fighting a pointless battle to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. President Bush continued to hammer on this tired theme Tuesday, as if unaware that it would take about a decade to extract a drop of oil from the refuge and that doing so would have a negligible effect on prices.