Thursday, May 27, 2010
The Washington panic, and the realities of the Gulf Coast spill.
This oil spill is a reminder—unpleasant for a public raised on fabulous technological advancement, and for an Administration engaged in taking over U.S. health-care and Wall Street—that government is not the Wizard of Oz able to solve every problem.
This Obama finger-pointing has, if anything, backfired politically. The oil spill was an opportunity for Mr. Obama—who campaigned as someone who likes to wrap his mind around "complex" problems—to remind the country that energy exploration and engineering are not error-free disciplines. The U.S. oil industry has a remarkable safety record, even as it has moved into deeper and deeper water to provide the U.S. with affordable oil. But no industry is accident free, and Mr. Obama could have served the public better by explaining the technical challenges of fixing this deep water leak. His decision to pound on BP for not performing immediate miracles has instead fed the public's expectations that this is like plugging a hole in a swimming pool.
Republicans have also done the nation no favors in their political rush to turn this oil spill into Mr. Obama's "Katrina." In an attempt to tie the disaster to the Administration, they've targeted the Minerals Management Service, suggesting agency bureaucrats weren't tough enough on Big Oil.
Never mind that there is zero evidence so far that this blowout resulted from lax regulation or shoddy practices. Never mind, too, that the GOP is targeting one of the few federal agencies that happens to believe in more domestic energy production.
We suppose it is too much to expect today's political class to withhold its game of panic and blame until industry plugs the leak and we learn what really happened and why. But the American people, watching this spectacle while the disaster unfolds, are being given one more reason to doubt the capacities and candor of its political leaders.