As I've mentioned before, I really have not wanted to reflexively blame the Obama administration for not doing more to contain and collect the oil spewing out of British Petroleum's disaster. But I keep hearing more and more stories of delays, red tape, and inefficiency. This column by Winston Groom in today's Mobile Register crystallizes my growing dismay (Groom is the author of Forrest Gump and lives in Point Clear, a few miles from me):
"...you wonder what the administration’s response would be if the oil were spilling up in Long Island Sound and threatening New York Harbor, or in San Francisco Bay — or, worse still, in Nantucket Sound, soiling the immaculate beaches of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod."
You really don't have to wonder for very long, do you? No resources and no expense would have been spared. No excuses would have been accepted. I don't know, obviously, what's in the president's mind, but he and the people around him are from a class that tends to consider most of the south to be a repulsive place, a land of racist morons and a liability to the rest of the country. I don't say they would consciously choose to take a catastrophe here less seriously than one on the east coast, but that they would do so unconsciously I have no trouble at all believing. One needn't even postulate hostility, just a sense that this part of the country is really not that important.
One gets the sense that Obama himself is mostly annoyed by the whole thing, and that he is less interested in protecting the coast than in using the disaster to advance other agendas. This report of a meeting today bears that out. Granted, that's a hostile source, but the original source is not (I can't link to it because it requires a subscription), and the gist of the story fits with the big speech of a couple of weeks ago, with the continued slow pace of the response as indicated in stories like this one.
Here is Winston Groom at greater length and with more specifics. He seems to be wrong, by the way, about the effect of the Jones Act, according to Admiral Allen. But whatever the reasons, there seems no doubt that the skimmers capable of keeping the oil away from our shores are in very short supply here, and sitting idle elsewhere. Probably there are explanations for that, having to do with regulations and logistical difficulties. That it would take a few weeks to get around those obstacles is understandable. But the spill has now been going on for over two months. People here are becoming deeply angry and embittered.
And I can't resist adding: if this had been President Bush, he would have been the object of non-stop vilification and ridicule by people who are mostly quiet now. I'm thinking of the conventional center-left press here; I think serious environmentalists have not been so docile.
Of course the administration is not responsible for the spill. BP gets the blame for that (there is some evidence that ultimately it was one BP employee who made the fatal decision that led to the blowout.) And the Bush administration can be blamed for lax standards at the Minerals Management Service, the agency that was supposed to regulate the oil industry. But Obama's Secretary of the Interior failed to follow through on promises of reform. By all accounts little had changed at MMS.
So the government failed at oversight, and is fumbling the response. Yet it complains that people don't trust it to run the health care system sensibly.