Obama and the oil leak — updated

The pretend-libertarian syndicated columnist Steve Chapman had a lengthy column today chastising conservatives for their criticism of President Obama’s response to the Gulf oil leak:

Not long ago, Barack Obama was pilloried for being too activist, too meddlesome and too inclined to see himself as the messiah. He was forcing health care reform down our throats, running General Motors, wrecking the financial system and promising to make the oceans recede.

But that was a different guy, from a parallel universe. The President Obama we all know is a passive, detached do-nothing. Or so we have been hearing since the British Petroleum oil spill gained our attention.

This is a straw man argument if I ever heard one. Obama’s actions on health care, General Motors, the stimulus, etc. were criticized because he was attempting to expand the role of the Federal government. Criticisms of his handling of the oil leak have to do with the fact that the Federal government, under his leadership, is not doing the job it is supposed to be doing, which is protecting our shores.

None of the critics of Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill are, to my knowledge, calling for expanded powers for the Federal government. Rather, they are criticizing him for failing to use authority the Federal government already has. In fact, the most significant action Obama has taken — imposing a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling — has been severely criticized, not only by conservatives, but by virtually all Gulf-state politicians.

I have also been chastised (not by Chapman, who doesn’t know me) for my Friday post taking Obama’s leadership during this crisis to task. Plugging oil leaks a mile deep is not part of the President’s duties, I was informed.

I never said it was. In fact, my post, which was basically a summary of all the criticisms, held:

  1. Obama has not shown any leadership at all during the crisis, or given much indication that it is worth his attention.
  2. The Obama Administration has refused foreign offers of help, and for three weeks barred Louisiana from constructing temporary sand berms to keep the oil away from its marshes.
  3. Obama, while not at all reticent about criticizing BP, has refused to meet with the company’s CEO.
  4. The actions the Obama Administration has taken have neither helped BP stop the leak nor stopped the oil slick from spreading. In fact, these actions — which include opening a criminal investigation, banning deep-water drilling for six-months, threatening to make BP pay for economic damage that is the result of the drilling ban and not the oil leak, and telling BP not to pay dividends — are just adding to the economic damage and causing diplomatic problems with Great Britain.

Chapman is wrong. There aren’t two Obamas. There is only one. Significantly, most of the energy Obama has devoted to this crisis has gone into trying to pressure the Senate into passing his pet cap-and-tax legislation. This is the same Obama we’ve had all along, the one that wants a massive expansion of Federal power and who will do anything to get it.

2 thoughts on “Obama and the oil leak — updated”

  1. I disagree that “Obama has not shown any leadership at all during the crisis, or given much indication that it is worth his attention.” Leadership is not demonstrated by getting up in front of the cameras and saying “I’m in charge.” It’s demonstrated by making sure the right person is in charge of the response and making sure that everyone in the government understands that person is to be given full access to all available resources. His choice of Admiral Thad Allen, who is far more qualified than anyone else in government (including Obama) to lead the government’s efforts, was hardly a political decision. It was a practical decision made by a practical leader.

    As for the moratorium on offshore deep-water drilling, you should remember that this is not the first accident of this nature (1979 off the Yucatan peninsula) which means it may not be the last. And given the enormous cost, environmentally and financially, associated with both accidents, surely there is nothing wrong with taking a pause to determine how future mishaps can be avoided before resumption of drilling. After all, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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