Thursday, June 3, 2010

Partisan Petro Politics

Like most of America, I am looking at the mess in the Gulf of Mexico with a mixture of horror and anger. Horror at the ecological and human disaster that gets worse with every passing day. Anger at an administration that is so bound up in symbolism that they seem incapable of definitive action.

Until today, horror seriously outweighed anger. Until today when I read that the president in a speech at a university basically put the blame on Republicans for not adequately regulating the oil industry. While he stopped just short of blaming them for the actual spill, he might as well have gone the full distance. This is simply pathetic.

Is there a ring of truth there? I don't know. What I do know is that the permit for that well was granted in 2009 under the Obama administration. Yes, it was the dysfunctional MMS that granted the permit, but Obama had a chance to fix known problems at MMS and did not. In fact he did nothing about MMS until after the oil started gushing out.

This from a president who seems incapable of taking executive command of a national disaster that threatens to wipe out multiple industries. This from an administration that cannot even keep its own word. As an example of that, 2 weeks ago, EPA ordered BP to stop using the dispersants. They told them to get a less harmful chemical. BP said no and the EPA backed off. Lots of determination there.

To be fair, Republican Eric Cantor issued a statement decrying the partisan politics even though he has been one of the main mudslingers in Congress. While he is right that this is not a place for partisanship. I am hard pressed to find anything Cantor has ever done that is not blatantly partisan and geared towards the next election.

That said, Cantor is not president. Obama is. And this happened on his watch. Blaming Republicans is no more productive than blaming evil mole people from the center of the earth (an old Superman episode plot for those who are wondering.) And while he trots around the country passing the blame, his administration continues to fail at the clean up.

Today's news tells us that BP is closer to limiting the flow of oil into the Gulf with a top hat of some kind. This is actually attempt 7, since the diamond blade saw failed. Hopefully by tonight, there will be some relief on the amount of new oil flowing.

However, the mess is already made and this administration shows no signs of rallying to the disaster. They are very good at pointing fingers and passing blame, but not so much at the actual action. The repeated and false claim that they have been on this from day one is belied by a simple look at the marsh lands in Louisiana. They are dead and dying because BP was allowed to take the lead and BP still has the lead.

Back to the president's claim that the GOP weakened regulation and let everyone run wild. Maybe so. But that does nobody any good right now. Nor do the investigations by the Attorney General. What is needed now is tangible action. No more words. No more speeches. No more blame games.

In the same way that he hired the previously failed economic team and then blames the previous administration, he hired the previously failed MMS and then tries to pass the blame along. It simply does not work that way.

Obama needs to remember that he is President of the United States. Not a squabbling little Senator. Not a candidate. The actual president. With all of the power and authority that comes with the job. He needs to remember that he has vast authority and use it. No commissions, panels or study groups. He needs to remember that he has the authority right now to take any and all actions needed to mitigate the damage to the Gulf Coast.

From my perspective, anyone that politicizes this mess until it is cleaned up is wrong and not deserving of the public trust. This goes for both sides. But it is Obama in charge. Or at least that is what he tells us. I am still waiting to see that happen. The good people who live and work on the Gulf coast are praying for it. I can only hope that this president and his overtly politicized administration set aside the partisan blame game and get down to the work they were hired for.

Until they do, I have to label this effort a failure unseen in our history and one that is likely to become the historical mark for bad management and a poor presidency. The ball rests firmly in the president's court right now. I hope that he can pick it up and get some real work done.

Mr. President, with all due respect, these are real people suffering a real tragedy. They are looking to you for leadership and not getting it. You have a chance to be what you promised to be. But I have not seen that yet. Please prove me wrong.

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