“Biden has a cursed presidency,” observed Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. “He’s gotten nailed by the continuation of Covid, by inflation being out of control, by a lunatic leader in Russia and now soaring energy prices that are hitting voters in the pocketbook. They want to be able to get gas for their cars and not spend a hundred bucks.”
Prices at the pump, which hit a record high of $4.43 a gallon on average last weekend, were rising long before Russia invaded Ukraine as demand recovered from coronavirus lockdowns. But in announcing a ban on US imports of Russian oil, Biden sought to reframe it as “Putin’s price hike”.
Republicans, however, saw a political cudgel with which to beat him. They argue that Biden campaigned on a promise to “wage war” on domestic energy production, signed an executive order to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and suspended or halted oil and gas leases on federal lands.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, tweeted: “Nobody buys Democrats’ efforts to blame 14 months of failed policies on three weeks of crisis in Europe. Inflation and gas prices were skyrocketing and hurting families long before late last month. The White House needs to stop trying to deny their mistakes and start fixing them.”
Republicans have also condemned the White House for reportedly considering deals with autocratic regimes for a back-up oil supply, undermining Biden’s moral authority at a critical moment on the world stage. Former president Donald Trump told supporters at a rally in South Carolina: “Now Biden is crawling around the globe on his knees begging and pleading for mercy from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela.”
Their solution? Vastly increase domestic oil and gas production to end reliance on foreign countries. Introducing legislation to that end, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri said: “To be strong and free as a nation, we must be energy independent. My bill will reverse Joe Biden’s disastrous energy surrender that has allowed Russian energy dominance and instead open up American production full-throttle.”