Saturday, June 19, 2010

The absurdity of the Gulf oil spill criticism

What ticks me off is the preposterous criticism of President Obama’s Tuesday oil spill speech. I would expect Sarah Palin, Fox News, and those other folks from the right to vilify the President. That’s par for the course. I would expect the folks who live in the Gulf region to be vociferous. After all, that spill is in their backyard. However, the criticism goes above and beyond these expectations, it seems American dissent from all quarters are putting-down his efforts.

From a Washington Post article, Susan Jacoby writes, “The chorus of voices--left, right and center--mocking Obama for talking about long-term roots and long-term solutions attests to the dearth of logical thinking that lies at the heart of every major, seemingly insoluble problem in this country. We have a president who, whatever disagreements one has with him, tries to think before he speaks and-- occasional appeals to the Almighty notwithstanding--generally tries to call on reason and offers his fellow citizens the unearned compliment of addressing them as if they were reasonable too. What a poor excuse for a leader! Bring on the tears and curses.”

In an email I received, the question was asked: Is this an example of leadership from our President? Of course, it is leadership. You might not agree with his administrative style in handling the catastrophe, or his cool demeanor may bring into question his commitment, but he has provided leadership.

I was asked, “What do I think of his speech? Disappointedly, I think it was a poor attempt simply to satisfy his critics. There was nothing new in the speech that in general he has not previously stated. Okay, so he didn’t layout some grand plan and he could perhaps have been more assertive. Nevertheless, in answer to the criticism that he has not gotten mad or shown some emotion on the issue, Fareed Zakaria, CNN’s GPS, has a great response.

And, as far as criticism of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) is concerned: Why would anyone unreasonably expect after decades of lax regulation that MMS would be turned-around in a year and a half. In the grand scheme of things, especially in view of political barriers, a year and a half is not a very long time. What occurred here is not different from the Wall Street or housing debacle – a failure to regulate. Moreover, it seems hypocritical that there is an expectation here of the President to do that for which he was denigrated by the right when he intervened in the private sector in attempt to prevent an economic disaster.

This Time Is Different is a column by Tom Friedman in which he supported the view expressed in a personal letter to the editor of the Beaufort Gazette in South Carolina by his friend, Mark Mykleby, who wrote, “This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. …. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life.”

The real world endemic causes of this disaster, its “long-term roots,” are that Americans and government are profligate and reactionary; that Americans expect immediacy. Americans and government will extravagantly spend until the well’s run dry. The American people are not willing to make sacrifices and conserve. Americans continue to buy gas-guzzlers even though they have no personal commercial purpose to do so. Personal and political self-gratification rules the day. America expects problems to be solved by 6 o’clock tomorrow morning, and don’t want to hear about “long-term solutions” or how we must plan for the future. Americans simply cannot look -- nor have the desire -- beyond the length of their collective noses in an effort to understand potential risks. And, Americans and their government tend to react after the horse has left the barn instead of preventing the horse from escaping from the barn in the first place.

Susan Jacoby’s, Tom Friedman’s, and Mark Mykleby’s conclusions are right on the money. All of us should accept the blame for the BP oil catastrophe because we culturally have accepted, by our acquiescence, the conditions that made it possible.