President Obama is calling on Congress to crack down on illegal speculation in the oil market, saying it's responsible for high prices at the pump. Plenty of traders legally buy and sell oil futures — which essentially allow them to purchase oil contracts at a set price at a later date — but the president wants to put an end to investors illegally trading such futures solely to manipulate, and profit from, the oil market. "We can't afford a situation where some speculators can reap millions while millions of American families get the short end of the stick," Obama said. Among other things, his $52 million proposal would bolster supervision of oil markets, and hand down tougher penalties for market manipulation. However, Republicans were quick to dismiss the proposal as political posturing. Is Obama's demand merely an election ploy?

Oil speculators aren't responsible for high gas prices: "Announcing a high-profile crackdown on oil market manipulators might play well with voters and motorists," but it has little do with gas prices, says John W. Schoen at MSNBC. Longterm trends in oil prices are determined by supply and demand — end of story. Obama's plan is "more politics than substance."
 "Obama's oil market plan more politics than substance"

But it's an effective campaign tactic: This is a smart move by Obama, says Ed Rogers at The Washington Post. It shows voters "that he is doing something rather than nothing on oil prices." Because while admitting that gas prices are out of his control might have the benefit of truth, it makes him seem "plodding" and "flat-footed," and forces him to talk "down to people." This way, he shows "action and therefore, some concern, and he instantly produced good headlines."
"Obama's speculation crackdown is smart"

No it's not. It makes Obama look like a joker: This is not a serious energy proposal, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. It seems Obama is "determined to roll out one gimmick after another." Like his other ridiculous gambits, this one "is presented with great sanctimony and many partisan accusations. But it's deeply cynical and unrelated to the real challenges we face." Voters might start seeing Obama as an "unserious" candidate. And that "should alarm Democrats."
"Misdirection is central to Obama's campaign"