The Politics of the Gulf Oil Spill
A little more than 45 days after the explosion and fire atop the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on the Gulf of Mexico that extinguished the lives of 11 oil workers and precipitated what some have called one of the worst ecological disasters in human history, Washington appears to have quickly and most ignobly devolved to what it does best.
It is quite disheartening, especially at this moment of global crisis, to watch Congressional Leaders and others in the corridors of power jockey for cheap political points with their maneuvers, banter and illogic. In some instances, the level of discourse appears so tortuous and hackneyed that one is left really fearing for the future of our civilization.
Here is what we know:
- According to federal estimates, following the sinking of the rig, oil has been spewing into the Gulf at the rate of 19,000 barrels (798,000 gallons) a day; approximately 874, 000 barrels (36, 708, 000 gallons) till date.
- The spill has wrecked havoc to the eco system and, to varying degrees, devastated the economies of fishing communities and popular tourist spots along the GulfCoast.
- The effort to contain the spill has been massive (more than 18,000 National Guard troops ready for deployment; 22,000 people feverishly working to protect waters and coastlines; 2,000 vessels on hand assisting the cleanup; 4.3 million feet of boom deployed with another 2.9 million feet of boom on standby, enough to stretch over 1,300 miles; nearly 20 staging areas across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to rapidly defend sensitive shorelines)
- After several failed attempts, BP is finally funneling up to 450, 000 gallons of oil from a containment cap, installed on the well, to a drilling ship nearby.
- By most estimates, even after the leak is completely arrested, it could take decades before the Gulf is restored to its pre-spill status.
The right-wing reaction has gone from initial consternation at Obama’s impertinence (some felt that he was overreaching into what was back then perceived as a private business matter in a manner that was both needlessly encroaching and suffocating---if you recall, one commentator even thought that the administration had it’s foot on BP’s throat!) to the dominant spin today where things are the way they are because the administration’s response was tepid or lackluster.
The absurdity of some of the more outlandish claims is as maddening and as it is befuddling. Some come close to actually blaming Obama for the spill itself. For these individuals, like it or lump it, this is Obama’s Katrina; his waterloo!
Although President Obama has been down visiting the region several times and has repeatedly decried BP’s handling of the spill while imploring the company not to abdicate its moral/legal obligations relative to the spill, many right-wing pundits want him to be more engaged. They want him physically on the ground, personally overseeing operations.
Interestingly, though, these are also the same elements that have mounted such a vociferous campaign stoking the fear of an imposing, ubiquitous federal government chomping at every opportunity to whittle away cherished individual liberties or scuttle free enterprise.
Also, the same people who, a few years ago, forcefully championed the passage of the law that capped the maximum allowable financial penalties that could be extracted from oil companies in case of a spill.
What is easily decipherable is that for these people, when the harvest is bountiful, government should back off and let the good times roll. But in austere times or when calamity strikes, the public should pick up the tab---and at such times, as now, they all conveniently catch a familiar strain of temporary amnesia (big government flying to the rescue quickly becomes a welcome proposition).
But such, really, is the jumbled, jarring state of the right-wing megaphone nowadays.
Today, it is so discordant and blindly committed to bringing the Obama administration a few notches down; casting it like any other before---prone to the same political proclivities and condemned to similar policy/emergency response blunders.
What is clearly different this time though is that with this segment of the population, Obama would never win. As is currently the case with the Gulf spill, the administration’s policy actions or positions were suspect from the onset; like that Miller Lite beer commercial, always either too light or too heavy!
I remain convinced today, more than ever before perhaps, that this catastrophe is a derisive indictment of the ideological position that favors the loosening of regulatory oversight of private interests that exert so much control over key sectors of the global economy.
Like many before it, this spill did not have to become such a baffling, obdurate colossus. BP, the oil industry for that matter, never really viewed safety and responsible drilling as integral to its core values. If it did, then an investment of a modicum portion of the astounding runaway profits of the last several years in new R&D technologies would easily have left it better prepared to deal with this contingency.