Some Suggestions For Our Inert President
No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post
We are in the midst of what is probably the worst environmental catastrophe in our nation's history, and it looks like the damage will continue to worsen for the next few months. Barack Obama may not know this yet, but his credibility and leadership are being destroyed along with the ecosystem of the Gulf Coast. He has come under heavy criticism even from Democratic strategists and analysts in the capitol, usually among his most reliable allies. It has gotten so bad that even wingnut welfare shops have started getting off tough but fair commentary.
When the geyser erupted the right wing half heartedly pushed a "this is HIS Katrina" line, on the anemic logic that both were crises in the Gulf states. As the weeks have gone on the comparison has started to become apt, though. As then, our president pays lip service to the magnitude of the problem but does not seem to truly comprehend it. Bush had his "tidal wave of compassion for hurricane victims," Obama has his "plug the damn hole." Bush had an empty, ostentatious announcement from the scene and now Obama has his. It is almost an invitation to reprise Stephen Colbert:
I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.
(Speaking of mockery, the following is still on the official White House web site (via): "President Obama will keep the broken promises to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. He and Vice President Biden will take steps to ensure that the federal government will never again allow such catastrophic failures in emergency planning and response to occur.")
Some of his supporters have been frustratingly eager to excuse his lethargic attitude. There has been a sort of defensive "oh yeah? Well why don't you tell us what he should do" response from bloggers like Jed Lewison and John Cole that show an entirely inverted understanding of how politics is supposed to work. I generally enjoy their writing, but really: It isn't my job to think up the answers! It's the job of our leaders to think up the answers! That's what they are there for! That's the fucking point of representative democracy! I've already got a job, I'm kind of busy here; I'm certainly willing to toss out any suggestions I have, kick in a few bucks for various relief efforts, and generally do what I can given the distance - but coming up with effective policies is what we elect people for! (To John's credit his commenters pointed out an excellent list from Rayne and he addressed it in a separate post.)
There are longer term items the president could do that wouldn't help right now but would be enormously helpful going forward. Dan Froomkin reported some other options, including using supertankers to suck in seawater and oil. And if we don't have supertankers, buy some at above market price, goddammit. God knows we bought above market from Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, and we don't have a scrap of infrastructure to show for it.
Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines parish in Louisiana offered this suggestion:
we have a company right here in Plaquemines parish, Versabol (ph), that has a plan to put an upside-down barge over the oil, when it fills up, move it aside, put another one, lift that barge up. They have the equipment. They have the ability. My beliefs is this company wants to do it. They want to put that technology, and that would capture the oil.
We spend over half a trillion dollars every year on the military; why not get the navy in there and have them monitor and document everything they can? Even if they cannot get to the gusher, they could help us understand what exactly the hell is going on.
Maybe all these suggestions are harebrained Rube Goldberg fantasies that don't stand a chance of succeeding. But you know what? The existing brain trust has repeatedly, spectacularly failed. So try anything. Try Nungesser's dome today. If it doesn't work, try supertankers tomorrow. If that doesn't work, try something else again. I and a lot of people are angry right now because they want to see this issue receive the attention it deserves. The government ought to be throwing absolutely everything it has at the problem. If it was, that would be abundantly clear without bland assurances and stage managed displays of irritation.
And with all due respect: If you don't have any ideas of your own, what the hell good are you?