If the president is going to try to manipulate a crisis, at least get the manipulation right: we should fast-track nuclear power to produce clean electricity to fuel a new generation of hybrid engines and electric motors; and we also should fast-track natural gas distribution to capitalize on new natural gas finds to power trucks, tractors, and large engines not suitable for hybridization with present technology; and we should exploit oil as a transition fuel wherever it can be more safely recovered (e.g., ANWR) without going 5,000 feet to get it.
But in general, an oil spill is a bad occasion for windmill wonkery. (Obama if filling in here: Al Gore’s domestic problems and his move to Oprah country have combined to silence him for a bit during the disaster.)
E) Straw men. Even the “some say” and “others say” got in there. Who says what and why? And the vague stuff about “we don’t know how precisely to get there” is like Patton telling the Third Army that they will reach Berlin some day but have no idea where the Rhine is or how precisely they will get across. In an odd, unhappy way, the president physically seemed to shrink behind the Oval Office desk. It almost looked as if a teenager were in the presidential seat trying to peep above the rim of the desk. Another cardigan sweater Carter moment.
The Political Mess
The BP spill is a nightmare for Obama for a variety of reasons. Let us count them, without delighting in his dilemma, given that we all are in a bad fix, since the spill is ruining an entire regional economy and the wild reaction to it threatens 20% of our oil supply.
Obama campaigned on competence and cool. But his technocrats, whether Van Jones, Dr. Chu, Larry Summers, or Eric Holder, are at best academic misfits and at worse simply unfit for executive responsibilities. Harvard Law Review may be of value for suing BP later and demonizing it in the press, and community organizing may be valuable in shaking down BP to clean up, but had only the president run an ACE Hardware store, or at least worked the night shift at Starbucks, he could have had some experience in delegating authority and demanding results from employees, while keeping in mind the bigger picture of economic survival. Right now we are being governed by a GS something, who has no idea where money comes from, but lots of ideas how to blow it. This crisis brings that out.
The left is restless. The shelf life of forbearance is ending. Obama so far has benefited from the liberal desire for power that has trumped even its own green advocacy. (Bush would have been cannibalized for this on second one). But at some point, the pictures from the gulf of dying birds, of oily beaches, of sticky fish will sink polls and so get even to the Malibu crowd. And after they scream at Bush, BP, Palin, hoi polloi for driving Yukons (instead of Lexus and Volvo SUVs), they are only left with Obama to blame.
The spill is a foreign relations metaphor and a dangerous one at that. Right now, Hamas, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, the Taliban, Turkey, Venezuela, and a host of others are testing us, three-quarters of them convinced (after 18 months of good evidence) that Obama either will not or cannot or knows not how to deter them all from making regional “adjustments.” When they see his polls fall during the Gulf crisis, and his tepid reaction to it, they by extension ponder whether another Gaza flotilla, another sinking South Korean ship, another Taliban offensive, another Syrian-Hezbollah missile sale, another slap at Eastern Europe, or another border incursion into Colombia might win the same sort of speech that we saw last night.
Add in the domestic turmoil over the bloody health care debate, the annual two-trillion-dollar deficits, the cap-and-trade and amnesty fights to come, and our enemies see opportunity as never before. (Note how Hezbollah prompted a July 2006 war with Israel, sensing a weakened George Bush — when his polls hit rock bottom, a midterm corrective election was coming up, and debate over the surge was tearing apart the country.)
Who is advising Obama? Are they afraid to tell the boss that hopey/changey is now stale and past expiration date — or do they sense that if they withdraw it from the shelf there is nothing to restock it with? Surely, there must be some sort of panic going on that they have an empty Armani suit?
A Final Media Note
Much has been made that the MSNBC and left-wing punditry crowd are turning on Obama, especially after last night’s non-speech. Sorry, I don’t quite believe they adjudicate Obama on competency, since the spill speech was no worse than the pathetic “I could no more disown Rev. Wright” riff of yesteryear, one that gave them a collective tingle.
Instead, Obama is now 42% to 48% in most polls, not soaring to 65% or demolishing Hillary. In other words, if right now Obama were still beloved, his former hagiographers would find a way to turn his Gulf performance into another ‘”I wasn’t there all that much at Trinity” excuse. But Obama, whom they all so invested in, is the most polarizing figure since Nixon, and has the unique ability to destroy liberalism for a generation: lose the House and maybe even the Senate; turn the public off on government, divide the country over health care, cap-and-trade, race, and amnesty; and completely discredit a shamelessly partisan media.
No, the sudden damning of Obama’s leadership is a symptom that Obama is turning radioactive, and not even Chris Matthews wants to be the last zealot in Washington crafting yet another narrative of how brilliant and tingly a soon-to-be 30% president “really” is.
In a weird way, the green issue is a gift from the gods for the liberal media: it allows them “on principle” (cf. Maureen Dowd) to distance themselves from Obama (as in “we don’t compromise with the environment” when, in fact, they compromise on everything from Predator assassinations, windmills off Martha’s Vineyard, solar panels in tortoise country, Guantanamo, etc. as long as there is power to be had or amplified).
But again, oil in the Gulf, like blood in the water, suddenly makes it “principled” for an opportunistic shark to take a bite out of a bleeding and floundering Obamafish.