Harrop: Time to put gripes aside; Biden is doing a good job

He shouldn’t be blamed for gas prices or inflation or for refusing a bad deal on a prisoner swap.

By Froma Harrop / syndicated columnist

The price of gasoline is not Joe Biden’s fault, nor did it break records. Adjusted for inflation, it was higher in 2008 when Republican George W. Bush was president. And that wasn’t Bush’s fault, either.

We don’t have to like today’s inflation, but that problem, too, is not Biden’s doing. Republicans are nonetheless hot to pin the rap on him. Rising prices, mostly tied to oil, have numerous causes. There would be greater supply of oil and gas, they say, if Biden were more open to approving pipelines and more drilling on public land.

Nope. Any added supplies from new drilling would be months in the future. Additional pipelines would take more than a year to build. And if you want to make unfair comparisons, note that the U.S. produced more oil under the first year of Biden than it did under the first two years of Donald Trump.

What we have is a spike in demand and constricted supply because of the war in Ukraine. Sure, we and our NATO allies could hand Ukraine over to Vladimir Putin, and the price at the pump would rapidly fall. Surrendering would give the unhinged Russian leader free rein to bomb more of Europe, and that would end up costing us a lot more. Biden says we must work to defeat Putin “as long as it takes.” Biden is right.

There is good news mixed in with the bad. Inflation may be at a 40-year high, but unemployment is a near-50-year low. Consumers are still consuming, which drives up inflation but also counters the assumption that everyone’s depressed about the economy. (It’s often said that the best cure for high prices is high prices.)

From the left come gripes that Biden hasn’t done enough to offset the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe ending the right to abortion. But his administration is working to protect access to FDA-approved pills used to end pregnancies. It’s unclear what else he could do. (If the left hadn’t demonized Hillary Clinton in 2016, we’d almost certainly have a different Supreme Court today and Roe would be secure.)

Allies of Brittney Griner are lengthening the lines at the Biden complaint department. They accuse the administration of not doing enough to free the professional basketball player, arrested while trying to leave Russia allegedly with some hash oil in her bags.

Griner’s long detention is absurd, and we should try to get her out, certainly. But suggestions that the U.S. exchange the imprisoned arms dealer Viktor Bout for the basketball player — an arrangement that understandably interests the Kremlin — are also absurd. Known as the “Merchant of Death,” Bout conspired to sell weapons to kill Americans.

This would be a highly uneven trade. Griner’s wife, Cherelle, is broadcasting how she’s “fed up” because the State Department is not prioritizing Brittney’s release. The administration, Cherelle says, is “wasting time from my wife’s life.” How about the time lost by the Merchant of Death’s murdered victims?

Biden would do well to ignore the organized protests by groups representing LGBTQ interests, women and people of color. And these groups would do themselves a service by dropping demands we secure Griner’s release in return for freeing the Merchant of Death. While trying to secure Griner’s release, Biden must put national security first. And further complicating the issues, Griner may have been foolishly carrying a substance that is highly illegal in Russia.

For some reason, Biden is getting attacked from all political sides and for things that are not his fault. He’s been handed a bad hand to play on so many fronts. Given the cards he’s been dealt, Biden is actually doing a pretty good job.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.

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