02 June 2010

Things I still don't understand

What actually do people think the President is supposed to do NOW about the oil spill?

Okay, BP was a collection of goofballs who didn't follow the rules and we allowed them to drill off the coast without any clear idea how to deal with a potential leak/spill underwater, certainly at that depth. But that was months, if not years, in the making. The questions are what to do about the situation immediately.

So he's apparently supposed to get mad and irate! Well turns out that didn't actually work out so well for Ray Nagin when he did it.

Okay so he's supposed to calmly lay out the situation. Well turns out that people don't like to be told that their government isn't all powerful, except in order to claim that it should be (ie, that this situation proves we need more government controls...even though what looks like the case is that we had government controls and BP just ignored them without penalties). So that doesn't leave a whole lot of options.

This was, in fact, one of the occasions where I thought Jon Stewart was flat instead of funny by trying to make a big deal out of the President wandering around handling normal mundane Presidential things like greeting championship sports teams or some such instead of treating the situation with great serious looks on his face and his full and undivided attention. If his advisers have told him what he's telling us, there isn't a whole lot that his full and undivided attention can do to help anything other than make everybody nervous. His job is to tell other people to take the situation seriously and monitor it for him so he can then tell us how serious it is. I suppose he could order NORAD to nuke it, like the Russians used to do with their spills in the 60s and 70s, but it's not clear how that would work with an underwater well like this. Plus radiation isn't exactly great or easy to clean up relative to oil. I'm sure there are things the government can do to help with cleanup or economic calculations relating to damages. But right now it's pretty much got the same options BP does in clearing out the damage itself, and the same incentives (get the spill under control). Maybe people don't want to hear that, but it's pretty much what we've got.

For full disclosure and consistency, I was not a person running around with my head cut off post-Katrina either blaming Bush for that. It was not handled well. Certainly "Brownie you're doing a heckuva job" was a poor choice of words, just as Obama's handling of the firing of the MMS head seems to have been handled poorly, but I'm not sure what after the levees failed the federal government was supposed to do differently. Indeed, it wasn't even called upon immediately (or ahead of time) by the state government, which because of the quirks of our federalist system is kind of a "you" problem. I've got plenty to blame Bush for from his time in office. And I've got plenty to blame Obama for now. I try to keep it down to those things and accept that it's sort of a tough job with only so much power and not a magical salve for all our ills the moment they strike.
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