The emptyhead again
Seventy years ago this week, Churchill gave us these memorable words:
Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’
Seventy years later, Barack Obama gave us this:
What has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny—our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there. We know we’ll get there.
It was one of the worst—and most revealing—lines ever uttered by an American president. Winston Churchill echoed the Psalms; Barack Obama echoed Alice in Wonderland:
“Cheshire Puss … Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat.
“I don’t much care where –” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat.
“— so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the cat, “if only you walk long enough.”
This week, Obama gave us this frightening insight into his presidency—he does not care where he is leading us, but we are sure to get there—and in so doing smashed the myth that he would one day stand beside Churchill as one of the greatest orators in modern history. It was not, suffice it to say, his finest hour.
Astute observers of the scene might recall one of the first things Obama did when he took office back in early 2009:
A bust of the former prime minister once voted the greatest Briton in history, which was loaned to George W Bush from the Government's art collection after the September 11 attacks, has now been formally handed back.
The bronze by Sir Jacob Epstein, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds if it were ever sold on the open market, enjoyed pride of place in the Oval Office during President Bush's tenure.
But when British officials offered to let Mr Obama to hang onto the bust for a further four years, the White House said: "Thanks, but no thanks."
Removing that which symbolized the greatness of Winston Churchill was an omen. In its place now stands the ineptness of Barack Obama.
Incredible dithering and flailing about by all concerned over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
And who was there to mediate and set priorities? Nobody. Certainly not President emptyhead. He didn't have a clue and showed no ability to learn
A Journal examination shows that the effort to contain the Gulf spill was hobbled by confusion and disagreements among federal, state and local officials.
Federal officials changed their minds on key moves, sometimes more than once. Chemical dispersants to break up the oil were approved, then judged too toxic, then re-approved. The administration criticized, debated and then partially approved a proposal by Louisiana politicians to build up eroded barrier islands to keep the oil at bay....
The federal government's priority was to keep the oil offshore, partly by laying boom. The coast has hundreds of miles of inlets, islands and marshes, which makes that strategy difficult. "There's not enough boom in the world to boom from Texas to Florida, so we're doing triage," Benjamin Cooper, a Coast Guard commander, told shrimpers and other residents in Dulac, La., in mid-May.
There were problems from the start. The first weekend in May, when the president made his initial trip to the region, the water was rough. Contractors hired by BP to lay boom off St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans, mostly stayed ashore, says Fred Everhardt, a councilman. Shrimpers took matters into their own hands, laying 18,000 feet of boom that weekend, compared to the roughly 4,000 feet laid by the BP contractor, Mr. Everhardt says. BP did not respond to requests for comment about the incident.
Edwin Stanton, the Coast Guard official in charge of the New Orleans region, says workers overseen by the government had laid tens of thousands of feet of boom the first week of the spill. But he acknowledges problems getting it to the right place. He says the Coast Guard decided it needed to accommodate local parish presidents, who all demanded boom even though they all didn't equally need it. Without the competing demands, he says, "we might have been able to use what boom we had to greater effect."
To make matters worse, the government didn't have the right kind of boom. Boom built for open ocean is bigger and stronger than that made for flat, sheltered water. The bigger boom is expensive and was in short supply, Mr. Stanton says.
"We really didn't have the appropriate boom sizes," he says. "I think we would have liked to put out open-water boom at the big passes, but we just didn't have enough."
As the oil spread east, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley wanted to stop it from crossing into Perdido Bay, a key to Alabama and Florida's fishing and tourism industries. In mid-May, the governor and Coast Guard officials worked out a plan to hold the oil back using heavy boom built for open ocean. Alabama authorities scoured the globe for the boom they needed, says a spokesman for the governor.
In late May, they found it in Bahrain and flew it to the Alabama coast. Days later, the Coast Guard gave it to Louisiana.
Mr. Riley was furious. The Coast Guard and Alabama authorities instead deployed lighter boom. On June 10, oil breached Perdido Bay. "This isn't a fight between Louisiana and Alabama, it's not between governors," the governor's spokesman says. "But it is incredibly disappointing to have those resources taken from us."
A spokesman for Adm. Allen says the boom was needed to protect a bay in Louisiana, and was taken "well before oil was in sight off Alabama."
Louisiana officials, frustrated that the boom wasn't working, proposed building sand "berms" along the coast to block oil from reaching shore. Dredges would suck sand from the sea floor and spray it in a protective arc along barrier islands. On May 11, state officials asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an emergency permit to build some 130 miles of berms.
Several federal agencies criticized the proposal. In written comments to the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency said the berms might not be built in time to stop oil from hitting shore. It worried the process might spread oil-tainted sand and change the water's flow, possibly hurting marshes. White House officials also were skeptical.
Frustrated by the delay, Louisiana's Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, sent the Louisiana Army National Guard to plug gaps in barrier islands, for which the state had legal authority.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was worried about another threat: the use of dispersants, chemicals designed to break oil into particles that can be digested by bacteria. BP was using unprecedented amounts—about 1.3 million gallons so far, according to federal officials.
According to EPA data, one dispersant, Corexit 9500, is especially toxic to the shrimp and fish used in tests. But it was available in large quantities, so that's what BP was using.
On May 10, with the boom and berm plans foundering, Ms. Jackson met about 25 Louisiana State University scientists to discuss the spill. Most of the scientists urged her not to let BP spray dispersants directly at the leaking well without more research, recalls Robert Carney, one of the LSU professors. Ms. Jackson responded that the EPA was "under extreme pressure from BP" to approve the move, Mr. Carney recalls. An EPA official confirmed Ms. Jackson met with the LSU scientists.
Five days later, the EPA said it would let BP spray the dispersant on the wellhead.
In mid-May, large globs of oil started washing ashore. The EPA, under pressure from scientists and environmental groups, abruptly turned against using the dispersant Corexit. On May 20, a day after Ms. Jackson was grilled by lawmakers, the EPA said it had given BP until that night to find a less-toxic alternative or explain why it couldn't. "We felt it was important to ensure that all possible options were being explored," Ms. Jackson said.
BP responded in a letter that makers of other dispersants wouldn't be able to supply large volumes for 10 to 14 days. It said it intended to keep using Corexit, which it said "appears to have fewer long-term effects than other dispersants."
In Terrebonne Parish, BP contractors still hadn't installed the boom, angering Coast Guard officials. "I could just see the fury in their eyes," Michel Claudet, parish president, says of the Coast Guard officials. The poor coordination with BP contractors, he says, "was just a common occurrence." Boom installation finally began on May 21.
Interior Secretary Salazar lit into BP on a trip to Louisiana, threatening to "push them out of the way" and let the government take over ground-level operations. He was contradicted by the Coast Guard's Adm. Allen, who suggested the government didn't have the technical know-how to fight the spill alone.
Much more HERE. See also The leadership gulf and The man who would be king and Coast Guard Shut Down Oil Cleanup For 24 Hours Over Life Vests.
Dems Turn On Obama
To the left, the oil spill is not an index of presidential competence or an issue in the political sphere. It is a daily gushing of poison into the Earth's waters as a direct result of the president's failure to stop it. They blame BP. But they already hate oil companies. And they blame Obama, too. And they are coming to dislike him.
When Obama attempts to recoup this damage to his political base by pushing new legislation on the environment or by resurrecting his cap-and-trade legislation or by bringing criminal charges against BP or by setting up a liability fund for the spill's victims, it does not solve his political problem. With each day, 60,000 gallons gush into the Gulf of Mexico, Obama's equivalent of the body count in Iraq that caused the left to loathe George W. Bush. Rhetoric or programs or visits to the gulf or posturing won't assuage the negatives. Only plugging the hole in the bottom of the ocean can do it.
The right and center of American politics turned off Obama over health care. And now the left is leaving him over the oil spill.
Why can't Obama plug the hole? Because he has no administrative experience. I often saw Bill Clinton, as governor and as president, call in experts and ask the tough questions when he faced a new disaster. In Arkansas, it was tornadoes or floods or fires. In Washington, it was Oklahoma City. But, each time, he thoroughly familiarized himself with all the technical issues. He took a bath in the science and substance of the hazard and became as knowledgeable as those who had spent a lifetime studying it. So he knew what questions to ask.
Any CEO or COO or manager has similar experience. But a community organizer, law professor, state senator, U.S. senator and president doesn't have the requisite experience. He doesn't know not to trust his own bureaucracy. He hasn't been burned enough to realize that he needs to intervene to waive restrictions, set aside regulations and open up the process to new solutions. He's like JFK during the Bay of Pigs. He doesn't know how to avoid being betrayed by his own bureaucracy and the industry it's supposed to regulate.
Why did he not waive the Jones Act (he still hasn't) to allow foreign vessels to ply our waters to clean up the spill? Not because he was against it. He couldn't have been against so obvious a course as waiving it. It was likely because nobody told him about it, and he never knew to ask.
Why did he let the bureaucracy use only U.S. contractors to dredge the Gulf and build the berms that Lousiana wanted? Why did he spurn the offer of Dutch assistance (half the country has been dredged from the sea and is below sea level)? Not because he wanted the jobs to go to Americans. That would have been an insane consideration in the face of this crisis. It is probably because he never realized that our capacity for dredging needed augmentation. Because he never asked.
To the right and the center, these failings show that Obama is in over his head. But to the left, which bleeds for each drop of water in the gulf and cries over every turtle or shrimp or sea bird, it is an unpardonable sin.
It is the nature of things that presidential mistakes metastasize into presidential character flaws. Bush's inaction over Katrina comes across as insensitivity. Now Obama's incompetence and inexperience is causing liberals to see him as arrogant, aloof, removed, conceited, suspicious of outside advice and even lazy. Long after the oil has stopped spilling, these supposed character defects will haunt the president, just as Jimmy Carter's reputation of timidity and inability lasted long after the Iran hostages came home. These defects will last until 2012 and beyond.
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