If He Is Just a Man, He Is Just a Man
Michael Ubaldi, May 27, 2010.
Jonah Goldberg, this morning:
Don't get me wrong, I'm usually singing from the same "It's Obama's Fault and We Know It" songbook. But I just can't bring myself to agree with the folks who think that the BP spill is a major indictment of Obama. He may have handled the politics of this thing badly, by which I mean the PR, but unless someone can explain how Obama could have "taken over" and fixed this faster, I think a lot of the criticism is overboard. Not all of it; it sounds like Bobby Jindal has some legitimate complaints. But the notion that BP isn't motivated to cap this thing as quickly as possible and so therefore Obama needs to lean on BP harder is nothing short of crazy talk. Obama could have been on vacation for the last month and I'd bet the tempo of the BP operation wouldn't have been one minute slower.
Jonah is right, of course. If the BP spill is at all like Hurricane Katrina, it shows a disappointing example of many Americans' meager tolerance for tragedies that unfold largely out of the control of man and science — as well as an incomprehension of what supports modern societies.
The public misunderstands scale in two ways. At the same time the gusher cannot be plugged with a cork, the spill itself will not affect ecology on a wide-ranging and long-lasting basis — sorry, but one need not be an expert to deduce that. And in spite of several thousand offshore platforms quietly collecting a vital natural resource at this moment, hysterics and opportunists are actually persuading some to consider an end or curtailment of drilling. It's on the order of a naive teenager swearing off meat after he learns how it's obtained.
Details of the rig explosion are pertinent legally and professionally, but for goodness' sake, not philosophically. Nor are they valuable politically. I dislike President Obama and his administration, but what partisans cast as insouciance may very well be a realistic sense of the country's daily affairs — or at least a tacit admission of the limits to federal majesty.
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