Following is op Ed writer Anne Applebaum’s anemic effort at explaining the oil disaster in the Gulf. She is as incompetent as Obama when it comes to oil. Neither should venture to within 90 million miles of this problem. I commented below, suggesting that we need a new agreement with all prospective and current drillers in the Gulf – basically, that they agree to jointly and severally be responsible for stopping the leak and all cleanup. Why bankrupt just one party when you can spread the risk. I spent a lifetime at this insurance concept, spreading the risk, so I should know. One item I didn’t comment on. We need better inspections from the government and mandatory capped relief wells or pipes which we can use when disasters like these occur, because they will occur. Though this is the first in as long as anyone can recall and we have 35,000 such wells.
The oil spill isn’t Obama’s Katrina
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Which leads me to a mystery: Given that he cannot stop the oil from flowing, why has President Obama decided to act as if he can? And given that he is totally reliant on BP to save the fish and the birds of the Gulf of Mexico, why has he started pretending otherwise — why is he, in his own words, looking for someone’s “ass to kick”? I suspect that there are many reasons for this recent change of rhetorical tone and that some of them are ideological. This is, of course, a president who believes that government can and should be able to solve all problems. Obama has never sounded particularly enthusiastic about the private sector either, and some of his congressional colleagues — the ones talking of retroactively raising the cap on BP’s liability, for example, or forcing BP to pay for the lost wages of other oil companies’ workers — are downright hostile.
A large part of the explanation, however, is cultural: Obama has been forced to take a commanding role in a crisis he cannot control because we expect him to — both “we” the media and “we” the bipartisan public. Whatever their politics, most Americans in recent years have come to expect a strong response — an invasion, massive legislation — from their politicians in times of crisis, and this one is no exception. We want the president to lead — somewhere, anywhere. A few days ago, the New York Times declaredthat “he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess” and should have started “putting the heat” on BP much earlier — as if that would have made the remotest bit of difference.
But Mitt Romney, who last I checked is right of center, sounded almost exactly the same note: Obama, he said, should be “leading this entire effort to bring together the experts, the various oil company executives, the engineers from various oil companies as well as from the various academic think tanks.” This comment reminds me of the time the European Union solemnly decided to form a committee to fight unemployment, as if that were an actual solution. I also love the idea that all of those offshore oil engineers twiddling their thumbs at think tanks — the Heritage Foundation? the Brookings Institution? — are only waiting for the president’s phone call to spring into action.
In truth, the organization most likely to have the phone numbers of the “experts” is BP. The organization that will get them to Louisiana fastest is BP. I am writing this not because I like, admire or even have an opinion about the company formerly known as British Petroleum but because BP’s shareholders have already lost billions of dollars and BP’s executives are motivated to find solutions faster than anyone in the White House ever could. Bashing BP or seeking to punish BP is pointless. This is not only because we will soon learn that many companies — American, Japanese, even Halliburton — were responsible for that rig but also because whatever the solution, BP has to be part of it.
Paradoxically, “talking tough” about this oil crisis also makes both Obama and America look weak internationally — just as “talking tough” about Iran made the Bush administration look weak. Harsh rhetoric is fine if it reflects a real will to do something, a real plan of action and the existence of a Plan B, for when the first one fails. But when angry words — anti-BP, anti-British, anti-oil company — reflect the absence of any alternative policy whatsoever, they sound pathetic. It’s right for Obama to be concerned about the consequences of this disaster, but wrong — and dangerous — for him to pretend he is capable of controlling it. We should stop calling on him to do so.