Senator Alexander had to raise the issue himself — only to be dismissed by the president. Well, I’m sure that will be of great comfort to the people of the Gulf Coast. When the president called senators to the White House to talk about energy, I’m sure most people in the Gulf thought the crisis down there would at least be a topic of discussion. Evidently, they were wrong.

The second thing we heard about the meeting is that the president made what was described as a "very passionate" argument in favor of "putting a price on carbon." This, of course, is code for the new national energy tax commonly referred to around here as cap-and-trade.

This is what the meeting was really about. And those of us who said that this is also what the president was talking about in his Oval Office speech a couple weeks ago were right: When the President urged Americans to view the Gulf oil spill as a reason to embrace his vision of energy consumption in this country, he was talking about giving government vast new powers over industry and over the everyday lives of Americans through a new national energy tax.

In other words, at a moment when the American people were hoping to hear about what the White House was doing to fix the oil leak in the Gulf, the president was using that moment to prepare the ground for yet another piece of legislation that would expand the reach of government — and which would do absolutely nothing to solve the crisis at hand.

The leak still isn’t fixed. For more than two months, this pipe has gushed oil into the Gulf, polluting our waters and our beaches, wreaking havoc on the lives and livelihoods of millions along the Gulf. I think it’s most people’s view that the left-wing wish-list can wait. Fixing this immediate problem should be the top priority right now.

One of the president’s senior advisers said the other day that when the president was elected, he had to deal with problems that had been put off for too long. But the administration needs to solve the most urgent problems first — and the most urgent problem is not a new national energy tax, it’s the crisis in the Gulf.

Former President Clinton had it right the other day. He said the federal government’s position on this issue ought to be very straightforward — the most important thing, he said, is to fix the leak. The second most important thing is to keep oil away from the shores. The third most important thing is to minimize the damage from the oil that reaches the shores. And the fourth most important thing is to find out who did what wrong — at BP and in the federal government — and to hold them accountable.

But the first thing is to fix the leak.