I know I’ve gone round the bend somewhat with my growing disgust with Hillary Clinton, but bear with me just a bit longer. The fight over whether to suspend the U.S. gas tax during the coming summer months is a powerful example of how craven Hillary has become—and how her overweening ambition is exactly what the country doesn’t need right now.

Hillary wants to suspend the federal excise tax of 18.4 cents a gallon for the summer. So does John McCain. It’s a terrible idea. Barack Obama rightly opposes it—and Hillary is trying to demagogue this “issue” just as she did with Jeremiah Wright et al.

At the heart of my approach is a simple belief,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Middle-class families are paying too much and oil companies aren’t paying their fair share to help us solve the problems at the pump.”

Oh, please. How does this woman keep a straight face when uttering such malarkey?

Why is suspending the gas tax a terrible idea? Well, fiscally it would make no difference to the millions of Americans to whom Hillary is sucking up. As Obama rightly points out, the amount the typical American driver would save from suspending this tax is about $30—these days, around half a tank of gas.

Second, as a matter of policy it’s an even worse idea. The solution to the gas crisis is not to try to make gas cheaper. It’s to encourage Americans to drive less, use more public transportation, drive fewer SUVs, and promote alternative energy. The era of cheap energy is, at least for now, over. Postponing our acknowledgment of that reality will only weaken our country.

Which brings us to the question of leadership. Again: The answer to American problems is not to try to make it easier for Americans to consume more and the consequences be damned. Hillary urging the suspension of this tax is a failure of leadership; it’s like George Bush telling us after 9/11 that the biggest sacrifice Americans needed to make was to keep shopping.

Want to know how silly Hillary’s argument is? Consider this quote from a McCain spokesperson:“It’s clear Barack Obama’s not strong enough to provide immediate relief at the pump, and it shows he doesn’t understand our economy or have the ability to deliver for hard-working Americans,” said Tucker Bounds, a McCain aide.

Not “strong enough” to provide immediate relief at the pump?

(A whopping 30 bucks.)

Obama’s strong enough to try to do better than simply throw crumbs at the voters and hope they eat them up. Hillary Clinton is not. She is, instead, dragging American politics to a base level just at a time when we need serious solutions to difficult problems. But she can only succeed if the rest of us let her.