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Obama Again Embraces “The Oldest Washington Stunt in the Book”


Candidate Barack Obama famously ridiculed his 2008 opponent for suggesting the next president establish a bipartisan commission to thoroughly investigate the myriad factors that contributed to the financial meltdown.  Obama snarked that John McCain was employing the “oldest…stunt in the book” and seeking to “pass the buck” by tasking others to “study the problem.”  (Here he paused for laughter).  Building up to an audience-fueled crescendo, Obama bellowed, “What we need now is leadership.”

Once elected president, Obama changed his tune.  Having created and exacerbated record budget deficits, Obama cracked open the old Washington playbook and found a certain stunt he thought might be useful.  Hello, deficit commission.  It promptly ran out of money.  Beyond that irony, many observers suspect Obama ultimately intends to use the panel as political cover (sometimes known as buck-passing) to violate his campaign’s central “firm pledge.”

Now the president is facing one of the gravest environmental disasters in US history.  Managing the crisis effectively, providing leadership, etc. has proven rather difficult, so Obama has found himself once again strangely attracted to the stunt he forcefully rejected on the campaign trail.  Hello, oil spill commission — for which Obama has requested $15 million in funding. Their job? To study the problem.  [Pause for laughter]. A wise use of taxpayer dollars? You’ll have to ask the deficit commission. 

The Associated Press’ science correspondent notices something odd about the composition of this expert panel:  a dearth of actual expertise.

The panel appointed by President Barack Obama to investigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is short on technical expertise but long on talking publicly about “America’s addiction to oil.” One member has blogged about it regularly. Only one of the seven commissioners, the dean of Harvard’s engineering and applied sciences school, has a prominent engineering background — but it’s in optics and physics…

Iraj Ersahaghi, who heads the petroleum engineering program the University of Southern California, reviewed the names of oil spill commissioners and asked, “What do they know about petroleum?”

Adm. Hal Gehman, who oversaw the Columbia accident panel, said his advice to future commissions is to include subject matter experts.

What’s that you say? Obama’s assembled a group of uber-political folks without much relevant experience?  Sounds familiar.


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