So why, again, is the Obama administration spending taxpayer money on a wide-ranging hunt for fraud that, even according to the president, isn't a primary driver of inflating gas prices?

It might have something to do with lower presidential poll numbers, particularly, The Post reported Tuesday, among independents who say that higher gas prices are a hardship . Lawmakers don't help, making it seem as though Obama could immediately slash the price of gas, if only he would crack down on corrupt Wall Street speculators, oil companies or environmentalists who don't like offshore drilling — policies that won't affect things such as rising demand for oil in China, the civil war in Libya, or other current market fundamentals.

You have to feel for the president. High gas prices aren’t his fault, just as they weren’t President George W. Bush’s fault in 2006 or 2008. And, given some Americans’ determination to blame him, Obama probably doesn't think he has much choice about deploying the executive branch to make it seem as though he is doing something substantive to reduce prices. He's now all but said so.

But that pretense only encourages the phenomenon that is hurting the president in the first place — the sort of crude scapegoating that suggests to Americans that they can easily blame Washington or Wall Street or some other unsympathetic institution for the current volatility of a trillion-dollar oil market.