The transition from community organizer to president has been a difficult one for Barack Obama. During the campaign, Obama could make girls faint
and send tingles
up Chris Matthews’ leg while saying basically nothing. He once described his campaign strategy as presenting himself as a blank slate upon which people could project whatever they wished. But the job of president requires substance.
Part of Obama’s problem is that he does not understand responsibilities, powers or limitations of his office. Obama can no more stop the oil spill than George Bush could order hurricanes away from New Orleans. But there is plenty that Obama could do that he has left undone.
Efforts to mitigate damage until the leak is sealed have been hampered by confusion
about who is in charge. Is it the Environmental Protection Agency? Is it the Coast Guard? Is it BP? Is it the Department of the Interior? Is it the Department of Energy, which by the way is led by a Nobel Prize winning physicist? According to local officials, requests for specific responses to what is seen on site require days or even weeks to wind their way through the bureaucracy before they are answered, if they are ever answered at all. When oil slicks were seen approaching the coast, Ralph Mitchell, Terrebonne Parish’s public safety director said of oil boom requisitions: “You would throw it into the dark black hole and it might not ever come back
In other cases, requests for sand berms
to protect fragile wetlands have been clogged in the EPA’s approval process for six weeks already
. Surely the president of the United States could order his own EPA to pick up the pace a little bit.
What Obama could have done and has failed to do
is help create a command structure with clear lines of authority so that requests don’t disappear into black holes. Instead Obama waited 58 days for a gap in his golf calendar before even speaking to BP’s president. In the interim he reverted to his ACORN persona and pointed fingers.
Instead of leadership, we get whiny petulance: “Even though I’m president of the United States, my power is not limitless. So I can’t dive down there and plug the hole. I can’t suck it up with a straw.”
Nobody expects Obama to suck up oil with a straw and I’m pretty sure that plugging “the damn hole” had already occurred to BP before he ordered it.
Other obvious solutions have been ignored. So far, the response has relied heavily on dispersants, but the amount of dispersants used has only been about 3% of what would have been required. Great Britain offered the US half of its entire dispersants inventory. But the Obama Administration chose to continue a policy of gratuitous insults toward our most loyal ally and simply turned the offer down
. The Netherlands offered its oil spill response team and was told, “thanks, but no thanks.”
Obama had better not blame his predecessor for the inadequacy of the oil spill response capability he inherited. Because three months prior to the blowout, he proposed cutting the Coast Guard’s oil spill response team.
Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano admitted
that she was unaware of her department’s oil spill response capability until long after it was too late to be of any use.
In 2009, the Obama administration accepted an oil spill response plan from BP that listed the Gulf Coast Walrus
as a “sensitive biological resource.” There are no walruses in the Gulf of Mexico. This is not an aberration. Previously Obama’s Department of Energy, which by the way is led by a Nobel Prize winning physicist, awarded its coveted “Energy Star” endorsement to more than a dozen fake products including a gasoline powered alarm clock
We could use foreign shipping resources to assist, but Obama refuses
to waive the Jones Act, a law that forbids foreign flag ships from moving between US ports. This law benefits maritime unions and no one else. There are many miles of oil booms sitting in a warehouse in Maine that the Obama Administration refuses to purchase
. Is it a non-union shop? Did the owners donate to Republicans?
I’m going to take Barack Hussein Obama at his word: “From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation’s history.”