In the eyes of his critics, Barack Obama can't win. He compromised with Republicans on off-shore drilling, but the big spill in the gulf brings him attacks on two fronts from the right. First, is the ridiculous and non-credible assertion that he wanted a bad spill to derail his own policy (this made by the infamous "Brownie" of Katrina fame, so consider the source); and second that the disaster happening on his watch is Obama's Katrina.
The latter attack is to shift blame. Katrina was a natural disaster the response to which was largely botched, in part by Brownie's debased FEMA. The oil spill was a man-made disaster and the culprit an oil company. By focusing the blame on the federal response (alleged to be tardy), drilling proponents want to deflect responsibility for the policies that contributed to the fiasco.
But the former idea, that Obama could benefit from the gulf spill, is also coming from some Democrats. They're not claiming that he caused it, or dragged his feet to make it worse, but rather that he can use the situation to turn crude into green lemonade. This is articulated by commentators like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who hopes that images and outrage will usher in a new eco-era. Pictures of dead birds will inspire folks to clean up the planet's act. This is not Obama's Katrina, it's his Cuyahoga, the toxic Ohio river that caught fire. "The catastrophe in the gulf offers an opportunity, a chance to recapture some of the spirit of the original Earth Day. And if that happens, some good may yet come of this ecological nightmare," writes Krugman.
Nice thought, but liberals are always misjudging the reasonableness of the American citizenry. I will be surprised if there is a tectonic earth-shaking eco-shift over this disaster. Terrible photos of dead babies in Vietnam did not prevent us from invading Iraq. The blue-marble pictures of planet earth have not moved the global warming deniers. The desire for gas has trumped the dangers of drilling for oil. Most of the people who are persuadable by disasters are already in the green column, and even some greens are unworried about future ecological disasters. There was Three Mile Island, but now Obama wants to revive nuclear power. If he can get passed a bill poisoning the planet with radioactive waste, I think most of the rest of us will tolerate the occasional oil spill.
The gulf disaster will be kicked around and turned into a political albatross for someone to wear (Obama's being fitted). The marshes, beaches, and fisheries will be injured, man and Mother Nature will clean up what they can, and we'll all move on, undeterred. Opening up more off-shore drilling might be delayed, but this won't sink it. More likely, it will simply get more expensive, and you'll pay at the pump. If you're looking for positives, how about this: at least the gulf clean-up is "shovel ready."
And don't under-estimate the media's shifting priorities. A terrorist bomb that didn't go off in New York is a bigger story now than a tragedy that actually happened in the gulf, one that was as man-made as a car bomb and damaged an ecosystem and killed 11 people. Oily pelicans have been trumped by terrorism.
The gulf spill will change little. Environmentalists might hope for a new uplift of outrage, but that's always a loser's mentality. It's epitomized by guys like Ralph Nader who believe that if things just get bad enough, America will flock their way. Well, we've got war, Wall Street, the Great Recession, eco disasters, terrorism — and what did we get? Tea Parties and a Democratic party facing a political face plant in the fall. And some liberals hoping against hope that as things get worse, the tide will turn and America will come it its senses.
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