Conquering impossible challenges has been the norm for America since before its founding. In the Revolutionary War, thirteen tiny American colonies stood up to and defeated the world’s greatest and most powerful empire. Compared to that feat, stopping a deep water oil well spill in the Gulf of Mexico is “no big deal.”
The conventional wisdom is that President Obama has no solution for the Gulf oil spill because there is nothing to be done that he and BP haven’t already tried. I could not disagree more.
Immediately following the oil rig explosion two months ago, Obama should have immediately assembled his federal government team leaders and the leadership of the Gulf States. He should have included the United Kingdom, the Dutch, and all other countries that had offered or were capable of providing significant assistance as well as all the oil companies, foreign and domestic, that are involved in deep water drilling.
He should have declared a national emergency, pointed out that failure was not an option and then rescinded all rules which might impede recovery and reclamation operations. If necessary he should have made up new rules as the situation warranted and as events evolved.
Next, he should have briefed everyone on what had occurred, what the current status was, what kind of help was needed from them, and let them all have their say while he listened and interrupted only to keep the discussion focused. The one thing his job did require him to speak to with authority was to outline the nation’s goals: that is, to protect the American people and their livelihood. Clearly he failed.
The most immediate concern was to prevent oil from getting to the beaches and marshes. The most successful way to do that might have been by deploying booms or creating new barrier islands and all that entails. In other locations skimmers may have been the best way. Some situations might have favored dredging, burning the oil or other measures.
Simultaneously he should have explored a dozen or so different ways of mitigating damage and cleaning up the oil. Perhaps only a half dozen of these solutions would have been effective enough to adopt permanently. During the course of the discussions no one should be allowed to lose sight of the necessity of finding a way to stop the flow of oil whether by capping, more drilling or whatever other clever ways the “smart oil guys” might suggest.
What the President should not have done in that meeting was mention or focus any attention on who was to blame for the spill or who had liability. And he should never have sent lawyers to the Gulf to try to establish guilt or fix blame. This was a time that demanded leadership and team building not reproach and fault finding. The time for that would come later once the immediate emergency was past.
Until the conclusion of a complete and thorough investigation of the oil rig explosion there is no way of knowing what really caused the accident. It is a waste of valuable time and energy and an unnecessary distraction to try to fix blame before a sufficient investigation is complete. Neither is it time to try to sell the American people on visions of a brave new renewable energy world.
Everyone should have left the meeting with one goal and focus: to protect the gulf beaches, waterways and maritime industries. Only when this had been accomplished could imaginations be allowed to drift toward creating a mythical green Land of Oz.
Were George Washington and Abe Lincoln here they would laugh at Obama’s notion that this oil spill tests the limits of American technology. So far all we’ve succeeded in testing are the limits of Obama and his staffers. It reminds me of Jimmy Carter, the malaise President, who said that the United States was too large and too difficult a country for just one person to govern as President. Then along came Reagan who governed America – all by himself – just fine.
Last year President Obama, his House and Senate colleagues, and his czars and advisors, ignored the nation’s loss of jobs and the failed economy and piled debt upon more debt while partying at the White House and passing health care legislation. Nero would have approved.
This year they plan to spend their time passing Obama’s new energy and climate change proposals, while blaming BP and President Bush for the oil spill. What they should be doing is fixing the problems. Have they lost sight of the fact that we Americans face no problem that can’t be fixed with a little leadership?