Monday, June 14, 2010

Obama should be thankful he got this far without significant blame for BP oil spill

President Barack Obama says he plans to pre-empt our television programming Tuesday night so he can speak to the nation about the grave environmental mess created some two months ago when a BP oil rig began spewing the substance into the Gulf of Mexico.

Of course, the conservative pundits are going to try to find ways to trivialize the moment – hence Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., going on the Sunday morning network talk shows and saying it wouldn’t have taken him more than 50 days to want to kick some “A-double-S” on this issue.

YET OBAMA OUGHT to consider himself lucky in one sense, because the public thus far has had the sense to see this as a problem caused, and compounded, by the one-time British Petroleum.

The amount of rhetoric that seeks to blame Obama for the situation in the gulf – oil washing ashore in Louisiana and along the Florida coast, thereby killing the tourist trade that many of those communities rely upon for their economic survival – has mostly come from such hard-core partisan nutcases that real people have enough sense to dismiss it as trash talk.

How much longer will this last?

Probably not much longer. After all, many people were desperate to believe that the company itself could control the situation before it could become an environmental disaster of historic proportions. Obviously, they failed.

SO NOW, WE’RE in a case where on top of all the other problems and situations our federal government must address, it seems they’re also going to have to deal with restoration of the gulf – which likely will suffer for decades before things are restored to what they once were.

That is, if they are ever fully restored.

If anything, I see this particular Obama speech as an attempt by the president to pre-empt criticism from regular people. (The nutcases will always behave like malcontents).

Just last week, the Gallup Organization released a poll saying that 40 percent of people surveyed approved of the way Obama was handling himself with regards to the oil spill, while 46 percent disapproved. Not that this issue dominates the way people think of the president – Gallup also had Obama with a 47 percent approval rating overall, compared to 44 percent who disapprove of his job performance.

IT SEEMS TO be a partisan thing – 18 percent of Republicans approved of Obama’s handling of the oil spill, and 14 percent of his job performance overall. Among his so-called Democratic allies, 62 percent approved of Obama and the oil, while 75 percent approved of his job performance.

Among those who insist on calling themselves political “independents” (a.k.a., too wishy-washy to pick a political party), the figures are 35 percent backing Obama on oil and 43 percent backing him overall.

As the poll itself notes, the biggest dropoff is from Democrats. My guess is that Obama wants to appear to be doing something so as to keep that 13 percent gap of Democrats who like his job performance but think he’s screwing up in the gulf from getting larger – just like the blotches on various weather report radar screens are doing these days when they show us just how big the oil spill has become.

I must admit to being appalled whenever I see those projections of just how large the contaminated area will become – particularly when they show an oil spill headed south down the Florida coast and then swinging around and headed into the Atlantic Ocean and up the U.S. coast, possibly as far as Washington itself.

YET I FIND it hard to believe that there was much more the federal government could do in those early days. Which is why I am reluctant to dump all over the president. He may be screwing up on other issues, including immigration reform, but he hasn’t blown this one.


It’s just that I can’t help envision how nasty the Republican and conservative rhetoric would have been had the Environmental Protection Agency immediately rushed to the area to strong-arm the situation away from BP.

We’d have heard the same conservative nitwits who have engaged in what trash talk has taken place complaining that the federal government was meddling with the affairs of business, and possible acting in ways that would exacerbate the problem and screw up the BP public image in ways that would hurt their future profitability.

WE’D HAVE HEARD all the talk about Obama being a socialist who should learn that the “American Way” includes backing off and not presuming that government can “fix” the problem.

Of course, that is all ridiculous. In fact, this situation may very well show us the type of incident where federal government is best positioned to address a problem – one that has spread across so many states (I just read a report about how Utah thinks they will be affected) that it would be ridiculous for us to expect each one to have its own policy for handling cleanup.

Particularly if this spill also winds up spreading south and west toward Mexico and the Caribbean islands. Then it becomes an international issue. Do we really want Mississippi state officials doing our negotiating?

So now, we get to wait until Tuesday when Obama gives us his address that causes a segment of our population to rant and rage that “there’s nothing good” on television, then we will get the punditry analyzing his every word for days thereafter.

WILL THE PRESIDENT give us an address similar to his comments in the days following the “discovery” of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright – which many remember as an eloquent, but honest, assessment of race in our society today?

Or will it be some rhetoric likely to enrage Rush Limbaugh into a more vitriolic rampage on air than Wright ever gave from the pulpit of his South Side church?


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