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This is the thing about the Clintons that drives some people bonkers, but I think it's pretty neat. In a piece of egregious political opportunism, John McCain's gotten behind the idiotic idea of a summer gas tax holiday. it's a terrible proposal, but it's hard to argue against politically. Barack Obama tries to take the high road in response:

Earlier Monday at a town-hall forum on economic issues, Sen. Obama rejected the proposal. "I've said I think John McCain's proposal for a three-month tax holiday is a bad idea," Sen. Obama said, warning consumers that any price cut would be short-lived before costs jump again.

That's great for a blog post, but for a campaign I like what Clinton's selling:

Speaking on CNN Monday night, New York's Sen. Clinton outlined a series of steps to address gas prices, including the release of oil from the country's strategic reserves. She said she would "also consider a gas-tax holiday, if we could make up the lost revenues from the Highway Trust Fund," which the federal gas tax supports. She didn't specify how those lost revenues would be recovered.

In other words, Clinton doesn't agree with McCain's idea. She'll do it only "if we could make up the lost revenues from the Highway Trust Fund." But we can't make up the lost revenues from the Highway Trust Fund, so she won't do it. And that's the right answer, but she's successfully confused most of the audience into thinking she does favor the holiday. Anyone who pays enough attention to realize she doesn't favor the holiday is probably high-information enough to realize that the holiday is a bad idea.

The strategic petroleum reserve thing, by contrast, is a tired hack ploy but the answer on the gas tax holiday is pure professionalism, a savvy veteran move to remind us that she still knows how the game is played.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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