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Politics, change, and the Deepwater Horizon

The story is that we need BP, as they are the only party with the closest thing to the know-how to handle this spill and which has the responsibility to do so.  I'm not sure I buy that.  They were knowingly irresponsible in the construction of their well; they seem to be pulling the wool over our eyes on the amount of oil that has escaped their well; and they apparently either do not have the will or the ability to handle this by themselves in a timely manner.  It has been five weeks.  We've seen oil washing up on our shores now.  If things continue at this rate, we can expect our present problems to increase, and to see oily hurricanes, once tropical storm season hits.

More clearly needs to be done.  Current public and governmental pressure is not enough.  Nor are the actions being taken by BP or the various local and federal agencies at work.  People can feel this.  Recently, there have been comments from both 'the right' and 'the left' that this crisis is Obama's political doom, his Katrina.   At present, that seems entirely possible, though we haven't gotten there yet.

The bigger, much more direct political loser here is obviously BP, and the rest of the oil companies, by extension.  Attention is now being paid to the cozy, accommodating relationships between regulators and 'big oil'.  Questions of the safety of off-shore drilling carry far more weight than a couple months ago, when Obama partially lifted the moratorium on new drill sites.  More pointed campaigns are being made regarding the need for cleaner, renewable energy sources.  The President has a chance to harness these movements, to turn this crisis (if it must be compared to a Bush-era disaster) from his Katrina-to-be into an environmental 9/11.

Obama ought to drop a rhetorical hammer on BP and its compatriots, and then quickly pivot to the answer: a crusade for better sources of fuel, a new and greener infrastructure, and a reinvigorated industrial sector focused on these needs, creating a healthier, safer, more secure nation, and a new economy.  This is the sort of vision, the kind of leadership Americans desperately crave in times of despair.  We want hope for a better tomorrow.

It shouldn't be a hard sell.  Recent wars, economic and environmental crises, global competition, and (less directly) that amorphous anger we keep hearing about on the news all the make the case for change.  Change that Obama has already called for in both concrete and general terms.  This is the change that we can believe in.  It's also the change Obama needs in order to distance himself from the incompetent early handling of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Bush was able to jump away from responsibility for allowing the terror attacks of 9/11, mostly by refocusing our anger, dismay, and desire for action.  Obama could learn from that, and actually accomplish something useful at the same time.  So why isn't he?


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