Saturday, June 05, 2010

This is the moment

Allahpundit points us to this report from The Daily Beast, which falls under the "really interesting if true" category:

Critics have bashed President Obama for being slow to seize the political initiative in combating the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, now widely believed to be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. The White House has battled back, releasing a timeline of events showing that Obama was briefed—and deploying the Coast Guard—within 24 hours of the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

What has not been previously disclosed: The president was not only briefed on the real-time events of the spill, but also on just how bad it would be—and how hard it would be to plug the hole.

So what did the president know and when did he know it?

Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, told Obama at one of the earliest briefings in late April that the blowout would likely lead to an unprecedented environmental disaster, senior White House aides told The Daily Beast. Browner warned that capping a well at such depths had never been done before, and that they ought to expect an oil spill that would continue until a relief well was drilled in August, the aide said.

That early briefing on the scope of the spill—and enormous technical challenges involved in fixing it—might help explain the sense of fatalism that has infused Obama's team from the start.

Little that has happened since has changed their mind-set. Now six weeks later, the president’s top advisers expect the oil spill—and the negative stories—to continue through August.

Wow. Just wow.

If I remember correctly, one of the primary ideas animating the Obama campaign is that it would replace the sclerotic Bush administration with a new, can-do spirit. Obama pretty much said as much himself two years and two days ago on a stage in St. Paul:

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth. This was the moment—this was the time—when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Emphasis mine. It's a little hard to square this vision with "the sense of fatalism that has infused Obama's team from the start." Fatalists are rarely willing to work or fight for much of anything. Did we really think we were electing an administration of fatalists?

Here's the part that rankles me: if the Obama administration knew what was likely to happen, why did it not act to help the states on the Gulf Coast mitigate the damage more quickly? Allahpundit makes the point well:

The real disgrace here is why, if he really did know right away that this was the oil equivalent of an asteroid strike, he didn’t scramble some sort of all-hands-on-deck emergency operation to protect the coastline. Remember, Jindal reportedly requested five million feet of hard boom back on May 2, long after Obama (according to Wolffe) knew about the magnitude of the disaster. By May 24, not even 800,000 feet had arrived. What happened?

There's probably an answer to those questions. But it better damned well not be fatalism.


Anonymous said...

Mitigating the damage doesn't fit the template that they will use to try to ram Cap & trade down our throats.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

Hmm, could it be that a narrative (fossil fuels are bad) is more important than the actual environment? Is it too cynical to consider that idea? Is there some other reason why they have done such a piss poor job in allowing the states to protect their own shorelines?

K-Rod said...

"Never let a crisis go to waste."

my name is Amanda said...

Where is the citation that shows evidence of a fatalist-infused administration? I mean, that's a rather difficult, abstract feeling-thing to prove.

Mr. D said...

Where is the citation that shows evidence of a fatalist-infused administration?

It's right there in the article from the Daily Beast. I don't think they are arguing that the Obama Administration is fatalist in toto, but that they have been in re the oil spill. And that's proving to be a big problem.

my name is Amanda said...

I was referring to the article. (But, whatever. Just clarifying. I don't care that much. It's an abstraction, certainly in the present, anyway.)

WBP - Not cynical, preposterous.

K-Rod said...

I care.

Possibly the worst environmental disaster on top of the ongoing Obama Depression.