I've always been enamored of Professor Glenn Reynolds' oft-repeated aphorism: "I'll believe there's a crisis when the people who say there's a crisis act like there's a crisis." It's a great BS detector, but it has some corollaries that I'm finding truly terrifying.
What does it mean when those people say there's a crisis, I agree that there's a crisis, but they refuse to act like there's a crisis?
I speak, of course, about the Gulf oil spill.
I read the alleged inside account of the situation Kevin posted last week, and come to the conclusion that the anonymous author is a lousy writer, but seems to know his shit. And the conclusion I drew from that -- as well as what so many others have said -- is that the situation below the former Deepwater Horizon platform is developing into an ecological catastrophe that could scar -- and economically cripple -- the US for a very, very long time.
This is Katrina bad. This is 9/11 bad. This is JFK Assassination bad. This is Pearl Harbor bad.
And -- it should go without saying -- this is "screw politics, all hands on deck" bad.
But it isn't.
The Obama administration wastes no opportunity to remind us of how dire the situation is in the Gulf. But its actions are utterly inconsistent with their words.
While the oil is still spewing, we have certain needs to best respond to the ongoing catastrophe. And those needs are not only being ignored by the Obama administration, but -- in some cases -- being actively sabotaged.
We need a strong, focused BP -- the people who ran the rig that failed so disastrously -- to lead the efforts in stopping the flow. They were the ones who ran it, who were in charge of it when it blew up. Unless we think they deliberately destroyed it, they are the best people to know exactly what happened and how best to stop it.
Instead, we have an administration that seems hell-bent on destroying BP. Hell, last week they extorted a $20-billion-dollar shakedown out of BP. And, cynically, the primary motive wasn't to get that money, but to secure the federal government's first dibs on BP's assets should they file bankruptcy in the US. This was the same move the Obama administration pulled with GM and Chrysler -- bypassing the normal rules of bankruptcy and screwing out the other creditors.
We need an easing of normal restrictions and limitations, freeing up all parties concerned to react swiftly to the impending slow-motion disaster. Instead, we have the Coast Guard turning away skimmers for inadequate life jackets, states being blocked from building berms due to long-term environmental impact concerns, foreign vessels and offers of assistance and expertise being ignored.
We need to find ways to minimize the immediate economic impact of the disaster, to somehow compensate for the loss of revenues from the damage in the Gulf. Instead, we have a proposed moratorium on all new offshore drilling, throwing even more people out of work, removing even more oil from our national supply.
We need to get the best and brightest and throw them at the problem. We need the experts, the geniuses, to figure out how best to stop the ongoing crisis, repair the harm it has caused, and prevent it from happening again.
Instead, we have a panel of experts finding their words distorted and their explicit rejection of a suspension of offshore drilling rewritten into an endorsement. And we have a new panel of "experts" who have absolutely no experience or knowledge of oil drilling, but have absolutely solid leftist credentials in Big Oil Bashing and environmental extremism.
There are several possible explanations for this, and I have no idea which is the most frightening.
1) The disaster isn't as bad as we all think it is, and the Obama administration knows that.
If that was true, then their "never let a crisis go to waste" response is understandable. Heinous, but understandable. This is an opportunity for them to push their agenda, and push it hard.
2) The disaster is as bad as we think, but the Obama administration doesn't realize it.
This would be entirely in character with this administration. They are the Peter Principle writ large: they have been promoted past their level of competency. They simply can't grasp that this disaster is a game-changer, so they are simply playing the game that they have played all their lives. Not because that's what they think is best, but because that's all they know how to do. "When your only tool is a hammer, all your problems start looking like nails."
3) The disaster is at least as bad as we think, if not worse, and the Obama administration knows it.
If that is the case, then the only explanation that makes any sense is that they believe that the whole thing is a lost cause, that it is pretty much an unstoppable catastrophe, and they're figuring that since we're all pretty much fucked, they might as well get theirs before it all goes to hell.
4) The disaster isn't as bad as we think it is, but the Obama administration doesn't realize it.
That's the fourth possibility of my little 2x2 matrix here, but I give it very little weight. It's the most Pollyannaish of the possibilities, and fits in with the first part of "hope for the best, but plan for the worst." I only include it here for the sake of completion.
At this time, we -- as a nation -- need leadership. Real leadership.
We don't need an ass-kicker-in-chief. We don't need someone firing up the blamethrower and sending in the lawyers to make certain all i's are crossed and t's are dotted. We don't need partisan hacks making certain their opponents get the blame and their friends get benefits, regardless of the facts.
We don't need a community organizer in chief. We don't need someone to rally anger over Big Business and the politicians "owned" by Big Business, marshaling the high emotions provoked by the disaster to find a villain or villains to string up (hopefully, only in effigy) while the disaster continues unchecked.
What we need is a leader. A commander in chief. Someone who knows that the first thing you do in a disaster is stop the ongoing harm. The second thing you do is try to repair the harm done. The third thing you do is figure out what went wrong. The fourth thing you do is try to prevent it from happening again.
Only after all that is done to you apportion blame and punish those whose misdeeds caused or enabled or enhanced the disaster.
I find myself hoping that there's an explanation for the Obama administration's actions in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout. That there is a method behind their madness, that there is some unifying theory or principle or belief that justifies all their actions so far.
But I'm not betting on it.