Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What He Said

Like most Americans, I watched the president's speech last night. Unlike many, I clicked the TV off before the pundits and spinners could get revved up. I wanted to be able to evaluate his words without the questionable help of pundits from any side of the issue. Needless to say, the pundits are still blabbing on.

As I type this, Obama is sitting down with the executives from BP. It is about time. One of the more admirable elements of his speech last night was his determination to hold BP accountable for the mess they made. Something he did not do to Wall Street or the auto industry.

Back to the speech itself. The first part was spot on. He described the problem and laid out a plan to deal with not only the leaking oil but also the Gulf coast cleanup and the needs of the people who have been put out of work because of the mess. I was also fairly impressed that he took the hit for the continuing scandals at MMS.

This is a large part of the Obama problem. He rehired the exact same MMS crew that had been caught in scandal before he took office, just like the pre-failed economic team. For some reason, this president hired the same people that were always there and then expects a different result. Not going to happen.

It was the second part of the speech that was problematic for me. Once Obama got into the moratorium on deep water drilling and his energy legislation, he lost me. While I know we need to deal with those things, the issue at hand is the oil gushing into the Gulf, cleaning up the mess and finding a way to keep the good folks down there in their homes and businesses.

This is not about opportunistic exercises in policy making, no matter what the ever redoubtable Rahm says. This is not about advancing a stalled energy agenda. This is about a national emergency. A disaster of unimaginable size and scope and how the president and his staff are going to deal with it. It is about expediting the inspections and reviews of the existing oil projects in the Gulf to keep those folks working.

One of the things lost in this entire thing is that the only platform that has leaked is the BP one. The evidence available thus far says that BP intentionally took shortcuts that were dangerous and led to the explosion, the deaths of 11 workers and the mess we now see every day on our coastline. No other oil company has these issues and they should not be penalizes for the actions of one of them.

There is a lot of chatter about not forcing BP to put the money in an escrow account. This is silly. BP has shown that it is not willing to honor its promises to the people in the Gulf region. Day after day, we hear stories about what BP has not done. 40 percent of claims remain unpaid and many are locked in a bureaucratic morass that rivals Washington.

I have even heard some say that BP is being unfairly demonized. Seriously? The same folks that are willing to condemn entire religions are unwilling to condemn the obvious culprit? Sounds like politics as usual to me. BP made this mess and BP has the responsibility to clean it up and pay for what they did - in money. Period.

But with all of that, the president missed the mark last night. Not by much, but he missed it. What was missing? Well, how about telling us that he has just sent this or that to the Gulf. How about activating FEMA? While he did describe actions being taken, he did get into the what will happen on the short term or what he can do now.

He also missed the mark by simply passing along BP's schedule of events for capping the well. No mention of outside review or the fact that BP has been late on every schedule thus far. They are obviously not to be believed.

But the real error was in using this time to press his stalled energy agenda. It was his introduction of politics into a disaster. This is not to say that Republicans are exactly innocent of playing politics with this. They are not. But they are also not currently in the White House, and, at the end of the day, it is the occupant of the Oval office that bears this responsibility.

Mr. President, drop the clean energy thing for now. Drop the legislative nonsense. Congress isn't going to do anything for you. Never have, never will. This ball is in your court. And only you, the President of the United States, has the power and authority to deal with it. So, as you promised on January 20, deal with it. Serve the people. They don't care about clean energy right now. What they want are clean marshes and beaches. Cut the red tape the way only a president can. No panels, commissions or agency heads. Exercise the amazing power and authority that comes with that office. You wanted the job, you got the job, now do the job.

The buck may stop at the Oval Office, but the real action begins there.

I am offering shirts with this design and will be sending the profits directly to the Plaquemines Parish Fund that is set up to help the folks most hurt by this mess.

I spoke to the good folks at Plaquemines and I have to say that for people living a horror show, they are some of the nicest and most grateful people you would ever want to talk to.

Please help out and get the message out at the same time.

You can order them here:

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