Decision In The Gulf


By: Wayne Brown

The oil spill in the Gulf waters has allowed us as good citizens of this country to observe the Obama White House in action. Listening to the talking heads, the various rhetoric being thrown around by “needing to get re-elected” politicians weighed against the backdrop of the potential crush the citizens of Louisiana and, quite possibly, other states will feel before this situation culminates is truly an education within itself. Life is a good teacher and some 37 days in the aftermath of this off-shore blow-out, we are learning that government is by no means a savior and to a large degree no even a decision-maker in this particular situation.

If you want to learn something of the management process, watch these people. They will teach you everything you need to know in terms of what not to do if you expect to achieve good management results. At best, the philosophy at work here is “let’s keep everyone calm while the patient dies.” In doing say, we can say that we were in control of the situation throughout. Let’s face it folks, they missed the mark and the door of opportunity is closing rapidly. Soon, there will be no decisions to be made for the clock will run out on that process. Good decisions are made in a timely manner not when you have all the information but at a point when you have enough information to make an informed decision. This is especially true in emergency situations such as this one.

Decisions can always be made. The timing of those decisions will determine the impact assuming the decision was made on the best information available at the time. That does not mean we wait until we have all the information. It means that we use the information that we have in order to make a decision within the timeframe that will render it productive toward the desired result. When we miss that window, it does no good to stand before people and tout the decision that you can now make after the clock has run out. From my perspective, the government has made it crystal clear that “it is in charge” but in doing so has left the “decision-making process” against a defined timeline in limbo. BP’s hands have been tied in many areas and the states are being held in check on launching any activities they deem necessary to offset the damage. The feds have held the decision-making process close to the vest yet decision are lacking.

Decision-making latitude starts at the top. Delegation of authority, in this case, comes from the President. If he holds all decision-making to his office and does not delegate, then things quickly bog down. One might think that Presidents are highly trained and skilled in this process. Not so. Presidents are just like everyone else attempting to manage. When they feel threatened or feel the stakes are high, they reserve the decision process to their judgment. While this might sound good, look at the results that approached achieved for America when LBJ reserved all decisions regarding the war in Vietnam to his office. In most cases, it will doom the President or any manager to a poor result.

All parties speaking on behalf of the government have their scripted talking points and one can easily tell just by listening to the various interviews that they will forego answering a question or a multiple of questions as long as they stay on script. Obviously there is a strong belief within the administration that delivering this script will offer reassurance to those affected and to a larger extent all Americans who are watching this situation play out. When questions are asked, the replies seem to center on how many pieces of equipment and how many people the government has assigned to this task. When questions are asked as to why the Governor of Louisiana is so upset, the only reply is that “we are working with governor and his people on a daily basis.” There is little or no information that is specific to what is actually being done to support the governor’s needs to save the coastline of Louisiana.

Harry Truman had a quote that sat on his desk which was easily read by anyone entering his office. The quote said, “The Buck Stops Here.” That made it pretty clear as to where he stood I would say. Mr. Obama has missed an excellent opportunity to fulfill the role assigned to him by his constituents by ignoring just that simple little saying. You see, this is what is wrong with the Obama response in this situation. The American public does not need someone standing up everyday to reaffirm that the government is in charge and that the government has its boot heel on the neck of BP and will make sure they deliver. At this point and time in this ridiculous mess, it is long since past the time for Mr. Obama to stand before the American people and give this speech, “The Buck Stops Here. We will continue to see that BP fulfills it role in this process and stays in it to culmination or total bankruptcy, whichever comes first. But, let there be no doubt, this government is here to stand with the people, to make them whole, and to restore their world to a normal state. The Buck Stops Here. No one in Louisiana or any other gulf coastal state needs worry as to whether BP has the adequate resources to see this situation to a successful culmination. Your government is in charge, your government will stand behind the results, and your government will not let you down regardless of what happens to British Petroleum as a result of this unfortunate situation. The Buck Stops Here!”

Then, the President and his advisors can go behind close doors and discuss whatever methods they need to employ to make sure BP and all other responsible parties to this situation stay at the table and work through to completion. At present, there are few people in America who feel with any certainty that BP will be around to see this process through. This situation may well be the end of the line for that company financially. BP knows it and it is on their minds every day as they write more and more checks in their attempts to quell this flow of oil. On that basis, you can bet they will keep any information they deep hurtful to BP close to the vest.

Mr. Obama has no desire to make that speech regarding where the buck stops for fear that he might have to wear it to his next election. Famed Watergate reporter, Bob Woodward observed, “When you see how the President makes political or policy decisions, you see who he is. The essence of the Presidency is decision-making .” Mr. Woodward hit the nail right on the head. Once you consider his statement, it also becomes quite clear that the lack of a decision or the timeliness of a decision plays greatly in the quality of the process. Let’s see, am I going to base my decision on political survival or should I first consider the welfare of those who live along the gulf coast? A President who hesitates to give those alternatives any consideration is not a President for America. Transparency works in many ways and sometimes it is most clear in the decision made or not made by the man who is in charge. Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

Government is proving to America time and time again that it is chocked full of poor managers who cannot manage budgets with any real success. This process starts in our legislative branch and extents outward. We have Congressmen and women and Senators who take great pride in pork-barreling their way back into office year after year and each time they drive the American taxpayer a little further into debt. You see, it’s not their money, it’s ours and few of them seem to care about that fact. The point here is to hear government officials over and over bemoan the fact that the “government is in charge” in this on-going disaster brings little solace to the very people they are attempting to calm. 37 days into this situation, the American public is still waiting for someone to manage this situation that does not have a pony in the race. Good luck.

As the clock ticks on this oil spill, various opportunities are left unanswered while we wait. The governor of Louisiana wants to begin building off-shore silt barriers to at least soften the effect but he is told to wait until it can be studied. Control burns of the surface residue were shrugged off in light of the friction that it might cause in the air quality arena. Admittedly, that does show environmental consideration but one must consider how many volcanic eruptions have been absorbed into the atmosphere of the earth and still we exist. One thing is for sure, the air will be far more capable and forgiving that the marshlands and coastlines.

Doors are closing, oil is spewing, and time is running out for any hope of exercising some reasonable level of control in this situation. The decision point looms both now and in November. One can only wonder if the oil will still be flowing as we head for the voting booths.

© Copyright WBrown2010. All rights reserved

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Comments 19 comments

outdoorsguy profile image

outdoorsguy 6 years ago from Tenn

great hub. I totally agree on all points. now if there was something I could do, like hire a sub and seal the breach.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

outdoorsguy, you're all heart. I'd be up there on the beach cheering you on...I don't like small spaces! Thanks for the read!

sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

It seems we heard early on that President had the lawyers on it, preparing lawsuits. That seems to be the only way this President can think. Sue. And study. If the local governments and residents, fishermen especially, had been allowed to attack the problem early on, they might have saved the coast.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

Sheila B.. I guess that's what you get when you send an inexperienced lawyer who did community work and logged 140 days in the Senate to be President. I knew we were in trouble when he filled his cabinet with worn out Washington wanna-be's who always seem to be available for public service. Right away it was evident that change and BS were one and the same. The only measure of change this man will register is how many American traditions he can do away with or ignore, how many people he can bow down and apologize to, and how fast he can turn this nation over to socialism. When America needs a President to apologize, we'll let him know. Never have I been less cofident in our country's ability to function. WB

lalesu profile image

lalesu 6 years ago from south of the Mason-Dixon

Preach a thing, Wayne Brown! I agree on every point. It breaks my heart to think of the loss of marine life that's occurring, and the wages and a way of life for so many who rely on the waters of the gulf coast will never be recovered as a result of this catastrophe.

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ralwus 6 years ago

I disagree on one point. Tax money is not ours, sadly. We have no say until election day and the money is relinquished to them and you know what happens. It's like so many celebrities who have let a manager take care of all their finances and they end up broke because of trust. We need somehow to fix that don't we? Good hub old son. I really feel for the people along the coast down there, will they ever recover from this? I think they will, but it will be hard and I hope they get the flow stopped today or tomorrow.

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TimBryce 6 years ago

Good hub. Again, imagine if Bush was still in office. The Dems would be screaming for his head by now.

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Brilliant analysis of this horrendous situation. Obama is incompetent, period.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks, know how to boil it down to the perfect words! WB

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks, know how quick I can pull that soapbox out and rant.

Charlie, your point is well taken concerning the money and I don't disagree. I guess I am more like Mike Tyson when Don King took his 100 million....'what happen to my money?'

Tim...can't you hear the media if GW were still there. Just yesterday I heard a news report that said the Whitehouse Press Corp has been assembled in a room and lectured on the type of questions they were asking. Apparently some of them are starting to be considered inappropriate for Mr. Obama to answer in this age of transparency. Thanks for the read and your comments. WB

garynew profile image

garynew 6 years ago from Dallas, TX and Sampran, Thailand

The EPA doesn't want BP using chemicals to dissolve the oil. OK, maybe the chemicals aren't that great, but sometimes you have to choose the lesser evil, as we have been finding out since November 2008.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

I guess their point is they would rather risk total disaster than compromise. Thanks Gary...maybe we can make some changes soon. WB

LRCBlogger profile image

LRCBlogger 6 years ago

I watched the presidents press conference today. It seems like the white house had tried to do as much as they can but the problem is no one seems to know 'what' to do. Obama is getting a lot of blame for this but what about the republicans and conservatives chanting "drill baby drill" and pushing this coastal drilling. Why is the governor of Louisanna, the state that issued the permits, not prepared for the possibility of a spill?

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

LRC...good questions. With regard to Obama's position, my frustrations are stirred by the government inserting itself into the matter, claiming control and yet seeming to run from any responsibility or accountability should BP fall out of the picture. They have not said no but then again they have not said yes. The situation in Louisiana is a bad one at the very least and there is nor has there been an administration that can or could relieve it. In that case, the people need reassure. I will say this, based on some of the information replayed about the news conference, I do think he did at least take some steps in the direction of reassurance today. He did clearly say that "this was his responsibility". That's a start. We'll have to see where it goes from there. The offshore drilling issue is a complex one. This particular well is outside the limits of our coastal boundaries. I would have to assume that it would fall under some guidelines associated with "international waters" thus I am not sure how much "control" the USA could exert in those situations. The shallow water drilling might be another story. Regardless, I see the issue pivoting, much like the issue surrounding stopping this spill, around what level of compromise and risk the parties are willing to accept to attain the goal. In terms of our dependence on foreign oil, we could see our hands tied in terms of our military response capability due to a lack of oil. From that perspective, offshore drilling, as a "compromise", may be at least one method to soften the isssue. I see the situation with the spill in the same light. We are well past finding a solution that will bring this to a happy ending but we still need a solution that will stop the flow. It seems to me that every effort that has been made so far has been done with the consideration to maintain the viability of the well for future use. That concern alone may have put us where we are today with the situation. It is past time to weight alternatives that are timely in terms of execution and viable in terms of the results. If that means the well goes away. Okay. At least then we can focus our total energy the cleanup and the making whole of the affected people. My difficulties with the administration is I do not see real signs that they are leading that process and the time is running out. Sorry to go on so long. You make some great comments that make for a good dialogue and I sure appreciate you stopping by. Please come back! WB

LRCBlogger profile image

LRCBlogger 6 years ago

WB, I believe this is the first Hub I have read by you. I have seen you comment on some of the hubs by the very conservative writers on hubpages. I have to say, I'm pleasantly surprised. You seem a lot more informed and rational in your points. You are also a pretty good writer.

To your point on offshore drilling, you are 100% correct. I get frustrated with the offshore drilling issue but there is no doubt that it is needed to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. What really gets me is that congress has done little to reduce our dependence on oil. The green revolution has begun but it probably should have started in the 70's when we had our first Oil shortage/crisis. I've been working with a number of groups to enact meaningful campaign finance reform. I believe that if we get private financing out of politics, our leaders are no longer "indebted" to special interest, large corporations, etc. I do agree on you with the Obama administration needing to 'own up" and take control. I think a lot of the problem is that Obama is constantly under attack by republicans and right wing outlets which puts him in a non stop defensive mode. (The second he says "this is my problem", fox news will run a headline saying obama caused the spill, etc)

In any case, I agree that the communication from the white house to the american people regarding the spill has been spotty at best (until today's press conference). However, where are we, day 31? This conference should have been done weeks ago

cjv123 profile image

cjv123 6 years ago from Michigan

Great Hub Wayne, I agree with you 100%.

Unless I misunderstood the Obama administration is completely complicit in allowing the oil to reach the shores and this is why - controlled burn. The answer from the White House was "concern for the environment". Jindell wasn't allowed to do it BECAUSE of where the spill originated. He had to just sit and watch and wait. This is where "The Buck Stops" with President Obama. The Federal government had the power to do this "burn off" which would burn on the top and burn off most of the toxic components of the oil. This leaves a heavier product that sinks. Thus - most never would have gotten to the shores. But the BHO admin. was more concerned with their environmental voting base than they were with all those on the coast line. They don't have the money to donate to his next run for President. They're just working stiffs.

Great thoughts Wayne - you really are a good writer and this was well thought out and well explained!

LRCBlogger profile image

LRCBlogger 6 years ago


You may have seen that there were attempts made at burning off some of the oil before it reached shore. In order to sustain the combustion, boats with booms were used to corral enough oil to achieve combustion that could be sustained. Sadly, by one estimate heard on National Public Radio (NPR), only about 3% of the oil could have been burned off in this way. To make matters worse, choppy seas have disrupted any burning operations. The coast guard and BP did several controlled burns. Unfortunately, the size of the spill is so massive, the spread of oil is thin on the surface and the burn simply does not "stay lit"

It is extremely difficult to keep it from reaching the shore. I have no idea how they will clean this.

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks for your comments Carol. LRC's point is probably well-taken in terms of getting the process to work. The attempt could have used a little more exposure at least to show the public some of the methodology attempted. These past few years have given us situations that have shown just how poorly equipped the federal government is to deal with these problems regardless of who sits in the White House. Considering the frequency of hurricanes and the reality of off-shore drilling, I would have thought there would at least be some "modeling" on the part of the government in order to develop response plans for things such as the aftermath flooding in New Orleans and the current oil spill. I am not a "big government" type guy and it bothers me to see it growing at a time when businesses are shrinking and cutting just to stay alive. At the same time, in the interest of focus and leadership, some entity must take charge in these situations. In that regard, I think government is the appropriate entity. At the same time, in these situations, when issues have to go all the way to the President and back down the chain before a decision is rendered, we must conclude that the methodology is a bit flawed. An Army will have a difficult time winning a war when all the decisions have to come from one place, the Commander-In-Chief. In the same way, emergency response must push the decision process down to the lowest level whenever possible and multi-tasking in harmony must be employed in the interest of both time and damage containment. Time is an extremely valuable commodity in these situations. We must make the best use of it. Thank your for your kind words and the read. Thank you also LRC for your observation and comment. WB

Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

After making 14 BILLIONS in profits in 2009, BP is crying poverty?! I would like nothing more than seeing them in the poor house.

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