The Campaign Spot

The Case Against Obama in the Gulf

Jonah isn’t on board with the idea that Obama deserves much blame for the ever-growing oil slick in the Gulf. But he’s almost persuaded by Kirsten Powers, and Rich weighs in.

The explosion, you’ll recall, was on April 20. The White House only named a director of the response on May 1; back on May 2 — to Gulf residents, it must feel like several ecosystems ago — President Obama declared, “The federal government has launched and coordinated an all-hands-on-deck, relentless response to this crisis from day one.” Of course, Jindal is still waiting for an EPA response to his plan for sand barriers.

I’m not an engineer; most of the public isn’t engineers; most of what they know about drilling probably comes from “Armaggeddon.” But they’re rather stunned by the fact that we have the capacity to drill so far away from shore and so deep, without any ability to shut it off or contain it if something goes terribly wrong, even if you give a bunch of really smart minds a lot of money and a month to work on it. (Let’s hope “Top Kill” works.)

I’m a small-government guy, but I think disaster preparedness is one of those critical federal government duties, and I’d like to think that the Coast Guard, etc., would be prepared for something terrible happening on an oil rig. (At some point, al-Qaeda must have considered blowing up one of these.) Like Katrina, there apparently was a plan, but the federal government didn’t have the equipment in place: “The federal government did not have a single fire boom on hand . . . The ‘In-Situ Burn’ plan produced by federal agencies in 1994 calls for responding to a major oil spill in the Gulf with the immediate use of fire booms.”

Ace put it:

A big question I have is why wasn’t there, already present in the Gulf, the equipment needed to contain or plug a leaking well? Why are we so far behind, scrambling, after the disaster has been ongoing for 33 days?

Please don’t call me a socialist when I say that if a company is engaging in an inherently dangerous activity, there should be laws requiring them to have the equipment necessary to contain a disaster. Sure, you can demolish a building through explosive force if needed — but you have to pay the Fire Department and EMTs to have personnel on site. You can’t just trust that you placed you charges properly.

A disaster will happen; they always do. This is just a fact of life.

What makes it criminal is that there was no back-up plan ready to roll.

Apparently Plan A for this was “the well will not explode.” Period. End of sentence, end of file. There was no Plan B in case it did explode because . . . see Plan A: The well will not explode. How many times do I have to tell you? There will not be a disaster — that’s our plan for containing a disaster.

A lot of righties feel like George W. Bush got an unearned share of the blame for the Katrina mess; Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco largely ignored pre-written evacuation plans and procedures during the critical hours. School buses were left unused. Several hundred cops walked off the job in the middle of the crisis. Yet somehow the lesson became, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” as we were informed during the charity telethon.

The dominant narrative of Katrina made no room for the normal human errors and snafus that mark any response to a giant problem; righties are naturally objecting to the sudden reinstatement of the “Hey, sometimes stuff happens, what can you do?” standard under a Democratic president.

Obama ran as the anti-Bush; he was supposed to be the embodiment of smarts and savvy and a pledge to get government working again. After almost a year and a half on the job, big government is behaving exactly the way it always has — accepting gifts from those they regulate and watching pornography at work, going whitewater rafting with their wives as part of “official business,” attending Democratic fundraisers, etc. Obama is far too focused on expanding the scope of government to spend much time or effort making sure existing government agencies are performing the duties they already have.

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