Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Big Spill and All That

 

Following all the news from the Gulf — and all the commentary on the news from the Gulf — has made me think not so much of Katrina as of an earlier disaster — the space shuttle Challenger. And it seems to point to a rather disturbing trend in our national life — the increasing politicization of EVERYTHING. Peter & others can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall very much commentary back in 1986 to the effect that the Challenger explosion was “Reagan’s fault,” or a “political disaster for Reagan.” Overwhelmingly (as I recall) people accepted that for what it was — a terrible tragedy, but also a risk that came with the territory of space exploration.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and if you listened to anyone to the left of Olympia Snowe you’d have thought George W. Bush personally directed the winds and rains of Hurricane Katrina precisely to obliterate the poor of New Orleans. And now, with little-concealed glee, conservatives are pouring it back on Barack Obama — “Obama’s Katrina” (Rove), “political disaster for Obama” (Noonan), and so on.

Out here among the 97% of Americans who don’t live day-in-day-out in the political cauldron, most people are pretty clear that the Big Spill is not really Obama’s fault, any more than Katrina was Bush’s or the Challenger Reagan’s. I’m not sure the “political class” (politicians, journalists, commentatators, think-tankers, bloggers, whatever…), left or right, is doing itself any favors with the rest of the population by trying to spin a political angle on EVERYTHING.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Exactly, we are supposed to be the good guys. There is plenty to criticize about Obama’s response, but the gleeful attitudes of some border on actively hoping the spill is not contained and gets worse.

    • #1
    • May 30, 2010, at 4:46 AM PDT
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  2. ParisParamus Member
    ParisParamus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Greetings all from Brooklyn. Interesting that the first Ricochet thread I decide to comment in refers to what, up to now, at least, has been my single favorite blog or web site…hmmm.

    No, the BP oil platform explosion and the leak are not Obama’s fault any more than Katrina was Bush’s fault. But what of efforts not made, efforts slowed down due to administrative inaction, and slow action?

    And when various geniuses say or intimate on television that those offices still have President Bush staff that are at fault? At that point, I would suggest calling the speaker of those remarks the “m” word, which is used ironically on the aforementioned blog, and moving on.

    What interests me most is the current President’s psychology with regard to the BP oil leak. I don’t think one has to wear a “nutter” hat to at least consider that President Obama’s actions and inactions are actually intentional: that someone who buys into the whole corporate greed/evil big oil and buys into the climate change hoax DESIRES the BP spill to wreak as much damage as possible so as to restrict oil exploration and the use of oil.

    • #2
    • May 30, 2010, at 5:56 AM PDT
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  3. James Poulos Contributor

    Read Gene Healy:

    […] E.J. Dionne complained that we’ve “handed vast responsibilities over to a private sector that will never see protecting the public interest as its primary task.” But as far as incentives go, the spill is all downside for BP, which is hemorrhaging market value along with oil. In contrast, the federal government and the president may well emerge from the spill with less popularity, but more power. That’s the logical consequence of the public’s boundless conception of presidential responsibility.

    If only we could “Top Kill” the Cult.

    But see Mark Shields [start at the 1:35 mark]:

    At a time of crisis, they suspend what are the traditional checks and balances on the President, they give him almost unchecked power. And they look for a few things — for a sense of control, a sense of command, and a sense of confidence.

    Yes, a sense of all those things — perfect for when the reality of control, command, and confidence are lacking. Inaction doesn’t always reflect a loss of control and confidence. Acting out as if it did is wrong. But command theater flatters our anxieties so well that, per Gene, we reward the actor after the fact with real subservience.

    • #3
    • May 30, 2010, at 7:43 AM PDT
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  4. John Boyer Member
    John Boyer Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    ParisParamus: Greetings all from Brooklyn. Interesting that the first Ricochet thread I decide to comment in refers to what, up to now, at least, has been my single favorite blog or web site…hmmm.

    And when various geniuses say or intimate on television that those offices still have President Bush staff that are at fault? At that point, I would suggest calling the speaker of those remarks the “m” word, which is used ironically on the aforementioned blog, and moving on.

    What interests me most is the current President’s psychology with regard to the BP oil leak. I don’t think one has to wear a “nutter” hat to at least consider that President Obama’s actions and inactions are actually intentional: that someone who buys into the whole corporate greed/evil big oil and buys into the climate change hoax DESIRES the BP spill to wreak as much damage as possible so as to restrict oil exploration and the use of oil. · May 30 at 5:56am

    Yeah, it seems to me that pushback against the continual blame Bush meme requires pointing to Obama’s inaction. At the very least the feds, and thus Obama, should have authorized Jindal’s requests.

    • #4
    • May 30, 2010, at 8:11 AM PDT
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  5. John Boyer Member
    John Boyer Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Suzanne Pacheco: Exactly, we are supposed to be the good guys. There is plenty to criticize about Obama’s response, but the gleeful attitudes of some border on actively hoping the spill is not contained and gets worse. · May 30 at 4:46am

    While gleeful Schadenfraude is not the way to go, I don’t think the term “Obama’s Katrina” engage in that sort of cheap political point scoring, especially since the administration waited so long to address the issue.

    James Poulos: Yes, a sense of all those things — perfect for when the reality of control, command, and confidence are lacking. Inaction doesn’t always reflect a loss of control and confidence. Acting out as if it did is wrong. But command theater flatters our anxieties so well that, per Gene, we reward the actor after the fact with real subservience. · May 30 at 7:43am

    I would agree that we shouldn’t want the president to “do something” merely for the sake of “doing something.” But there were many legitimate actions the administration could have taken and didn’t (providing Louisiana with their requested preventative measures to keep the oil out of their wetlands, mobilizing firebooms as is required by federal law, etc.).

    • #5
    • May 30, 2010, at 8:21 AM PDT
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  6. Ottoman Umpire Inactive
    ParisParamus: I don’t think one has to wear a “nutter” hat to at least consider that President Obama’s actions and inactions are actually intentional: that someone who buys into the whole corporate greed/evil big oil and buys into the climate change hoax DESIRES the BP spill to wreak as much damage as possible so as to restrict oil exploration and the use of oil.

    Under this scenario, the President would have swept in on a white horse much sooner to demonstrate the relative competency of government vs. the private sector and of his administration vs. that of his predecessor. I can’t imagine that (a) his narcissism approves of this hit to his image; (b) his omnipotence extends to commanding the oil to flow despite BP’s best (if thus far inadequate) efforts; and (c) his motives are so foul.

    • #6
    • May 30, 2010, at 8:42 AM PDT
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  7. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ah, but the key today is empathy. You must feel everyone’s pain. That means your boots on the ground early and often, with much emoting for the cameras, even if that gets in the way of effective action. Plus, you really (substance inserted here) need to support the state officials when they ask for specific things to protect their areas. That is where Obama has actually failed. Jindal v. Bianco is a bit of a mismatch, and Louisiana knows it.

    And Mr. Obama hasn’t exactly helped himself: http://dailycaller.com/2010/05/28/what-obama-has-been-doing-while-the-gulf-coast-dies/

    • #7
    • May 30, 2010, at 9:52 AM PDT
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  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Ottoman Umpire

    I can’t imagine that … (c) his motives are so foul. · May 30 at 8:42am

    When has Obama ever demonstrated care for his political opponents (which includes citizens who didn’t vote for him)? Obama is not different in kind or degree from Chavez. He’s just more constrained by the circumstances of his power.

    I’m sure the President does genuinely want the leak plugged… though I doubt concern for us racist, homophobic, oil-loving Republican reliables in the Deep South is really a motive. However, one can simultaneously dislike a situation and recognize an opportunity.

    He has already spoken of using an oil tax increase to “help” the Gulf Coast citizens whose livelihoods have been affected by the spill. That affords Democrats an opportunity to buy votes in traditionally Republican territory via welfare incentives.

    • #8
    • May 30, 2010, at 9:56 AM PDT
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  9. John Boyer Member
    John Boyer Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ace over at Ace of Spades HQ has a post up about this very question. I think he provides an interesting and important point (although I’m not sure I completely agree with it).

    He argues that to hold Obama accountable for the failure to contain the oil spill might not be consistent with the position conservatives held regarding Bush and Katrina, but it is consistent with the precedent the liberals set during Katrina. They won the argument back then in court of public opinion and the media and established the political precedent that we hold presidents accountable for disasters they had authority over dealing with.

    Although we argued, rightly, that Bush wasn’t responsible in the way liberals claimed, the liberals won the argument. Not on the basis of logic, but because the majority accepted the narrative/premise. The next time a disaster like this occurs with a Republican president, liberals will no doubt use the same argument. Why should we be forced to abide by this precedent only when it harms us? And we will be forced to abide by it because the precedent has been set and no amount of argument on our part will change the public’s view.

    • #9
    • May 30, 2010, at 9:59 AM PDT
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  10. Harlech Inactive

    I think Steve is on the money.

    John Boyer: Why should we be forced to abide by this precedent only when it harms us? · May 29 at 9:59pm

    Because we’re the good guys?

    • #10
    • May 30, 2010, at 10:07 AM PDT
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  11. John Boyer Member
    John Boyer Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Harlech: Because we’re the good guys? · May 29 at 10:07pm

    As I said, I’m not sure I completely agree with Ace.

    But it is true that some blame can be place on Obama. As the head of the federal government, shouldn’t he be held responsible for not moving the federal government to deal with the spill in a timely manner in whatever degree they have authorization and the capacity to do so? Especially since, unlike Katrina, this happened in Federal waters.

    The public, post-Katrina, expects the President to leap into action on these matters. I agree with them. What is up for debate is exactly what action we should expect or authorize the government to take here.

    • #11
    • May 30, 2010, at 10:12 AM PDT
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  12. John Boyer Member
    John Boyer Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    To quote the esteemed Charles Krauthammer:

    “In the end, speeches will make no difference. If BP can cap the well in time to prevent an absolute calamity in the Gulf, the president will escape politically. If it doesn’t — if the gusher isn’t stopped before the relief wells are completed in August — it will become Obama’s Katrina.

    That will be unfair, because Obama is no more responsible for the damage caused by this than Bush was for the damage caused by Katrina. But that’s the nature of American politics and its presidential cult of personality: We expect our presidents to play Superman. Helplessness, however undeniable, is no defense.

    Moreover, Obama has never been overly modest about his own powers. Two years ago next week, he declared that history will mark his ascent to the presidency as the moment when “our planet began to heal” and “the rise of the oceans began to slow.”

    Well, when you anoint yourself King Canute, you mustnt be surprised when your subjects expect you to command the tides.”

    • #12
    • May 30, 2010, at 10:14 AM PDT
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  13. Profile Photo Member
    John Boyer

    I would agree that we shouldn’t want the president to “do something” merely for the sake of “doing something.” But there were many legitimate actions the administration could have taken and didn’t (providing Louisiana with their requested preventative measures to keep the oil out of their wetlands, mobilizing firebooms as is required by federal law, etc.). · May 30 at 8:21am

    I wonder if he has appealed to any non-governmental resources for logistical and technical support? I understand that BP and Transocean are dominant in the industry but surely Exxon, etc. know something about cleaning up oil, or have equipment that could be used.

    • #13
    • May 30, 2010, at 10:41 AM PDT
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  14. Profile Photo Member

    Steve I wish you were right, but I think the “politicization of everything” is something we’re stuck with.

    The fact is the left leaning media mauled Bush as badly as they could with Katrina, without losing much sleep about the fairness of what they were doing. It was low-down and painfull to watch but many Americans bought it hook, line and sinker.

    In late 2004, I saw an interview with T. Boone Pickens about why he was donating such a large amount of money to pay for Bush’s reelection TV ad spend. Pickens explained that he was reacting to Kerry campaign ad hominem attacks on Bush and said, “If the other guy is already swinging, you’ve got to get in the fight and start throwing punches too.”

    Politics in America right now is played according to prison rules, whether we want it to be that way or not, and for the left it’s payback time and I think they know it.

    • #14
    • May 30, 2010, at 11:07 AM PDT
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  15. ParisParamus Member
    ParisParamus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “Under this scenario, the President would have swept in on a white horse much sooner to demonstrate the relative competency of government vs. the private sector and of his administration vs. that of his predecessor.”

    I disagree. The white horse scenario you posit is fantasy, but even if it wasn’t, and the federal government could relatively quickly fix what has happened, the net result would be little or no pressure to curtail deep-sea oil production. On the other hand, taking half, or quarter measures, and pretending “everything possible is being done” gets you the sought-after fossil fuel / pro-AGW effect. Maybe…

    • #15
    • May 31, 2010, at 2:14 AM PDT
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  16. Karen Inactive

    I think liberals poisoned the well during the Bush years. Now, there are those who criticize Obama for saying too much or not enough. Who is to say that everything isn’t being done to plug the hole? Once you decide someone is incompetent nothing he does matters, because it will be always be the wrong thing. The question I have is what is the effectiveness of the political polarization taking place? I was always amazed at how Obama blamed Bush for everything in one breath, and then complained about the partisanship and divisiveness in DC in another. All this “blame Obama for everything” mentality seems like we’re just bringing a knife to a knife fight. Don’t get me wrong, he gets no “great job” stickers from me, especially since has completely ignored mentioning the terrible flood damage in my hometown of Nashville. We need to bring a gun to this knife fight. But I’m wondering what exactly the “gun” is.

    • #16
    • May 31, 2010, at 9:01 AM PDT
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  17. Profile Photo Member

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are some significant ways in which this spill IS Obama’s “fault”, or at least it can legitimately go on his ledger.

    I understand that this well was drilled where it was because his agencies would not allow drilling in shallower water.

    I understand that his agencies sped up the approval process and lowered the bar on some of the requirements for approval of this well.

    Thus, if my understanding is correct, his administration bears culpability for denying access to easier, more conventional, less risky sites, and for giving short-shrift to the regulatory requirements for a technologically difficult drilling site.

    The fact that there is a certain “pay back” quality to the whole thing is just frosting on the cake.

    • #17
    • May 31, 2010, at 12:25 PM PDT
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  18. Andrea Ryan Member
    Andrea Ryan Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    If James Carville puts his lovely face front and center on national television and yells at Obama for his ineptness over handling the oil spill…you know there’s a story there.

    Obama made this oil spill officially “his” when he declared last Thursday, “In case you’re wondering who’s responsible, I take responsibility.” Consider the harsh repercussions imposed on military commanders when there’s a snafu within their chain of control. The MMS failed in its oversight of the Deepwater Horizon’s compliance with safety regulations on Obama’s watch. When you have a Commander-in-Chief that acts like a mini-Daffy Duck clinging to his pearl ranting, “It’s mine! It’s mine! Mine, mine, mine” and declares uber-control over all that is his (i.e. The Dept. of the Interior and its MMS) then he owns the problems that go with it.

    • #18
    • June 1, 2010, at 12:26 PM PDT
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  19. Andrea Ryan Member
    Andrea Ryan Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Ottoman Umpire

    Under this scenario, the President would have swept in on a white horse much sooner to demonstrate the relative competency of government vs. the private sector and of his administration vs. that of his predecessor. I can’t imagine that (a) his narcissism approves of this hit to his image; (b) his omnipotence extends to commanding the oil to flow despite BP’s best (if thus far inadequate) efforts; and (c) his motives are so foul. · May 30 at 8:42am

    After months of trying to figure out Obama’s motives the only consistent behavior I see that I apply to all conclusions is this…he and his cohorts are complete buffoons and their behavior may even be synergistic when they work together. So, I would otherwise agree with your scenario, Ottoman, but I don’t think he has the astuteness to time his narcissism, white horse and foul motives. I think they’re all there…he’s just a buffoon, so they play out randomly, which makes it less obvious to the rest of us.

    • #19
    • June 1, 2010, at 12:45 PM PDT
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