The political winds certainly seem to be shifting a bit as I watch pundit after pundit begin, every so softly for some, to come to the same conclusion Maureen Dowd has about President Obama.
The oil won’t stop flowing, but the magic has.
The other day, Dowd referred to Obama as “President Spock” and moaned about his inability to relate. He’s not an emmoter-in-chief as Bill Clinton was, she complained. Instead he maintains an aloof distance and instead of tackling the problems that come with the presidency head-on, seems more inclined to treat them as annoyances or distractions.
All this brought on by an oil spill that Barack Obama had nothing to do with, but which is now starting to define his presidency. Said Dowd in the previous editorial:
Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it.
Again, to those of us who watched his progression to the Presidency while warning about his wafer thin resume, this doesn’t come as a particular surprise. Call it “I told you so” if you wish, but many critics found his lack of leadership credentials to be the most important reason not to elect the man.
And now, the Dowds, Carvilles and Matthews of the world are discovering this problem.
Certainly, he didn’t cause the leak. George Bush didn’t cause Katrina. But he’s responsible for the federal response, a precedent set by Katrina and the Democrats who demonized and pilloried Bush. Obama is the guy on the spot to make a difference when a disaster strikes. He is the person who must mobilize the federal forces necessary, remove the red-tape and get things headed in the direction they need to be headed.
Where is that? He’s visited the area twice. He seems to have no idea of what further measures might be possible or necessary. He’s delegated everything to others and doesn’t seem that interested in taking an active hand. In fact, it appears he’s only made an effor to look like he’s interested because people are beginning to talk.
Where is the leadership? Where’s Obama taking an active role, for instance, in federalizing some National Guard troops, training them up on beach and marsh clean up and getting them where they need to be? Is every possible boom available on site and either deployed or ready to go? Why isn’t he in using the influence of his office to remove the red tape wound tightly about the Corps of Engineers and helping the governor of LA get his barrier islands constructed?
Why isn’t he talking to Saudi Arabia about how they used supertankers used to clean up the horrendous spill caused by Saddam Hussein over here? How many supertankers are available. Why aren’t we chartering them, and moving them in the spill area?
Instead we see the deployment of the Attorney General to explore criminal indictments against BP, a commission to study the problem and this:
One little hole a mile down on the ocean floor, so deep it seems like hell spewing up its sulfurous smoke, has turned the thrilling saga of “The One” into the gurgling horror of “The Abyss.” (Thank goodness James Cameron, the director of “The Abyss,” came to Washington Tuesday to help the administration figure out how to cap the BP well. What’s next? Sending down the Transformers and Megan Fox?)
Seriously – James Cameron is somehow more of an authority on submersibles than, say, the thousands upon thousands of experts within the oil industry (not just BP) who work with them daily in the environment in question? Is it any wonder to see people like Dowd beginning to lose confidence in Obama’s ability to lead?
Barack Obama isn’t responsible for the leak, and he’s made it clear, and rightfully so, who is. But he is responsible for protecting this country from all enemies and problems – even evil oil slicks that threaten our coastlines and way of life in those areas.
And he’s failing – miserably. Dowd continues to pretend this is something that Obama can change and quickly if he’ll only step up.
This president has made it clear that he’s not comfortable outside whatever domain he’s defined. But unless he wants his story to be marred by a pattern of passivity, detachment, acquiescence and compromise, he’d better seize control of the story line of his White House years. Woe-is-me is not an attractive narrative.
His problem isn’t a story line that he’s deliberately, for whatever reason, allowing to unfold. It is the fact that he hasn’t the experience, the fortitude or the leadership to do what is necessary to address the ever growing problem.
43 days and Obama remains on his balcony, detached, annoyed and clueless. That’s not how anyone wants to see their President.
As he did many times in the Illinois Senate, he is again voting “present”.
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As the story continues to unfold, all sorts of questions come to mind.
What is up with Turkey and why are they keeping this so hot? It’s prime minister has recently said:
“Now Israel has shown to all the world how well it knows how to kill,” he said. “People were killed and badly wounded, some from shots, even when bound. How human is this? There is no other way of explaining this to the world. All states condemn it, but this is not enough, we need results. People around the world need to know that one day justice will be revealed. If Israel does not immediately free all the detainees and wounded, the rift in relations with it will widen.”
Yet it has become clear that the boat was loaded with agent provocateurs from the Muslim Brotherhood whose sole intent was the initiation of a violent confrontation with Israeli forces. And, in fact, one of the “humanitarian agencies” represented on the flotilla is a Turkish Islamist group who advocated the overthrow of the Turkish government back in 2000.
So why is that government being so strident and confrontational? Don’t forget too – Turkey is a NATO member. Are we going to be faced, at some point, with choosing to support a NATO member or Israel?
And speaking of Israel, it appears that much of the country is upset with the raid and its outcome. Not so much in sympathy with the Islamists killed, but because it was so poorly thought out and executed. It was, as many are characterizing it, an ambush, and the Isrealis seemingly went into it blindly and were obviously unprepared (you don’t take a paintball gun to a real fight).
Jeffrey Goldberg sums up the feeling in Israel today:
There’s real pain in Israel today, pain at the humiliation of the flotilla raid, pain on behalf of the injured soldiers, and pain that the geniuses who run this country could not figure out a way to out-smart a bunch of Turkish Islamists and their useful idiot fellow travelers. And no, there is no particular pain felt for the dead on the boat; the video of those peace-seeking peace activists beating on the paintball commandos with metal bars pretty much canceled out whatever feelings of sympathy Israelis might have otherwise felt. Plus, most Israelis are aware, unlike much of the rest of the world, that these ships were not on a humanitarian mission, but a political mission, one meant to lend support to Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, so you might have to excuse Israelis for not sympathizing overly much.
There’s more specific “shame and embarrassment” as well. Goldberg goes on:
About that shame and embarrassment: I just met with the son of a friend who serves in an elite Israeli army unit, one very much similiar to Flotilla 13, the Naval commando unit deployed so disastrously against the anti-Israel flotilla, and he explained the shame this way: “These soldiers are the best we have. We are Israel’s deterrent. People in the Middle East need to think we are the best, and we are the best, except that when we’re sent into situations without any intelligence, without any direction, with paintball guns instead of sufficient weapons, with no understanding of who we’re fighting. Then we’re going to have a disaster. These commandos were beaten with pipes! They came onto the deck (of the ship) one by one down a rope and they were beaten by a mob! Commandos!
It is indeed obvious, with the normal benefit of hindsight, that the plan was ill conceved and poorly executed. And, as this friend of Goldberg points out, most of that can be attributed to insufficient, bad or totally inadequate intelligence.
But that begs the question, “why”? This flotilla hasn’t been any secret and it certainly seems many news organizations were gathering information about it. It seems almost inexplicable why the much vaunted Israeli intelligence network wasn’t on top of this or, if they were, how they got it so very wrong.
I don’t care who you are, or how good you are, when you piece-meal your force into a situation where the enemy contols the ground you’re going into, you’re screwed. And to add to the problem, you have a force inadequately armed for the situation (it is obvious by the fact that they were armed with paintball guns that they expected to meet little if any resistance) and an ROE tailored to a completely different situation.
Then there’s the public relations side of this fiasco. However right the Isrealis were in trying to stop these ships from running the blockade, with the deaths involved, they end up on the predictable short end of the PR battle.
And, as is now beginning to play out, there’s even a symbolic side to this that, per some critics, to which the Israelis government should have been more sensitive:
Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya’alon are supposed to know history. They are supposed to know there was no greater mistake than that of the British with regard to the illegal immigrant ship Exodus in the summer of 1947. The brutality employed by the British Mandate against a ferry loaded with Jewish refugees turned the regime into an object of revile. It lost what is now called international legitimacy. British rule over the country ended just 10 months after the Exodus fiasco, The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was no Exodus. It carried not Holocaust survivors but provocateurs, many of them extremists. But a series of baseless decisions on the part of the prime minister and the ministers of defense and of strategic affairs turned the Marmara into a Palestinian Exodus. With a single foolish move, the Israeli cabinet cast the Muslim Brotherhood in the role of the victim and the Israel Navy as the villain and simultaneously opened European, Turkish, Arab, Palestinian and internal Israeli fronts. In so doing, Israel is serving Hamas’ interests better than Hamas itself has ever done.
There’s your “sad but true” statement of the day. That is what most of the rest of the world will compare it too. It will also grant “victimhood” to those killed even if it was the intent of those “victims” to martyr themselves. And the hypocritical Arab world will latch on to that publicly while privately celebrating the deaths.
As one of the flotilla participants, Muslim Brotherhood member of its Egyptian Parliamentary bloc is quoted as saying in March of this year:
“A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise.”
And that was precisely their aim and the outcome. The death cult of radical Islam doesn’t deplore death, it welcomes it and celebrates it. But they also knew the predictable outcome of such “martyrdom” via the world’s reaction to them if they could provoke those deaths.
Now we have to see how this all plays out – but for right now, Israel has put itself between a rock and a hard place in a surprisingly un-Israeli fashion.
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The Supreme Court decided yesterday, in a narrow vote, that if you want to remain silent – and stop police from peppering you with questions – you have to say you wish to remain silent (and thereby legally end the police questioning).
Our newest Supreme Court Justice, Sotomeyer, dissented saying this ruling “turns Miranda upside down.”
“Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent — which counterintuitively requires them to speak,” she said. “At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded.”
That’s what happens when the word “right” is thrown around haphazardly as it is in today’s culture. What Sotomeyer is attempting to do (and what the court has done in the past) is imbue a legal privilege with the mantle of “right”. Telling someone they have the option of remaining silent has nothing to do with a right. It is a privilege our legal system has granted to those who’ve been arrested so they won’t incriminate themselves mistakenly.
There’s nothing wrong with requiring an acknowledgement that they wish to invoke the privilege of silence. There is likewise nothing wrong with assuming they aren’t invoking it by their silence. They must speak when they’re asked if they understand the Miranda warning, and they must speak to acknowledge their desire for a lawyer. There’s certainly nothing wrong with speaking to say you are invoking the legal privilege of silence.
It’s an “opt in” situation (just as speaking up for a lawyer). Otherwise, police are free to assume that privilege isn’t being used and can continue to try to question the suspect.
I see no right – in real terms – violated by this ruling. And I assume that the Miranda warning will be modified to say that the person arrested must clearly state they choose to be silent and that will be recorded or attested too. The simplest way is verbally followed up by a standard form invoking the privilege and signed by the defendant. I don’t see a problem there.
BTW, Elaina Kagen, now a SCOTUS nominee, had this to say about the case to the court as solicitor general:
“An unambiguous-invocation requirement for the right to remain silent and terminate questioning strikes the appropriate balance between protecting the suspect’s rights and permitting valuable police investigation.”
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Guess what folks, Canada’s moon pony and unicorn “what’s wrong with you Americans, you’re so uncivilized to not have national health care” health care system is in serious financial trouble. And, unbelievably, for the very same reason critics of the recent US health care law said would inevitably happen here. I know, I know – just hard to believe, isn’t it?
The crux of the problem? Well lack of money, what else?
Pressured by an aging population and the need to rein in budget deficits, Canada’s provinces are taking tough measures to curb healthcare costs, a trend that could erode the principles of the popular state-funded system.
“There’s got to be some change to the status quo whether it happens in three years or 10 years,” said Derek Burleton, senior economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank.
“We can’t continually see health spending growing above and beyond the growth rate in the economy because, at some point, it means crowding out of all the other government services.
“At some stage we’re going to hit a breaking point.”
They’re kidding, right? Weren’t we told that once government got involved this stuff would be affordable and would go on forever?
Their first target, of course, is pharmaceutical companies. They want them to slash prices. But at some point, pharma is going to say it can’t anymore. Because pharma isn’t the problem. Central control of health care delivery is. It has no flexibility, or at least not to a level that it can adapt to changes in the market with any nimbleness. That means it continues to hemorrhage money. Health care spending rises at 6% a year by plan. But it is going to, as mentioned above, begin to crowd out all other government services unless the Canadian government gets a handle on it and does so fairly quickly. Anyone know what that means?
But that deal ends in 2013, and the federal government is unlikely to be as generous in future, especially for one-off projects.
“As Ottawa looks to repair its budget balance … one could see these one-time allocations to specific health projects might be curtailed,” said Mary Webb, senior economist at Scotia Capital.
My guess is more than “one-time allocations” might be curtailed. Consider Ontario:
Ontario says healthcare could eat up 70 percent of its budget in 12 years, if all these costs are left unchecked.
“Our objective is to preserve the quality healthcare system we have and indeed to enhance it. But there are difficult decisions ahead and we will continue to make them,” Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan told Reuters.
That’s bureaucratise for “we’re going to have to ration this stuff and do it pretty darn radically” – unless, of course, Ontario would prefer to spend 70% of its budget on health care costs.
I doubt that’s the case.
Here again we have the end game (or at least the results of the game at this point headed to its inevitable end) of where we’re headed.
My favorite line in the story:
Scotia Capital’s Webb said one cost-saving idea may be to make patients aware of how much it costs each time they visit a healthcare professional. “(The public) will use the services more wisely if they know how much it’s costing,” she said.
“If it’s absolutely free with no information on the cost and the information of an alternative that would be have been more practical, then how can we expect the public to wisely use the service?”
No – she really said that. And that’s the type of person who first embraced the moon pony and unicorn promises that were made for the system.
The problem with all of this “reality” suddenly descending on the system? It is pretty apparent to anyone who has studied a welfare state (and the same place we’re now headed):
But change may come slowly. Universal healthcare is central to Canada’s national identity, and decisions are made as much on politics as economics.
“It’s an area that Canadians don’t want to see touched,” said TD’s Burleton. “Essentially it boils down the wishes of the population.
And so it goes, another chapter in the inevitable end of all such programs – over used, broke and headed toward strict rationing. And the moon pony crowd thinks that if they just tell Canadians how much it really costs when they see a doctor, they’ll do it less and save the system.
Heh, yeah, good luck with that.
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Since hopping out in front of the cameras, thinking the top kill had worked and claiming that the administration has been in charge of the effort from “day one,” things have gone down hill for President Obama. As it turns out the top kill effort was unsuccessful. And, as the Washington Post tells us today, now the effort is to distance the administration from the oil company is supposedly was directing to do its bidding:
Struggling to convey command of the worsening Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Obama administration is taking steps to distance itself from BP and is dispatching Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to the Gulf Coast to meet with federal and state prosecutors. The Holder trip could signal that the environmental calamity might become the subject of a criminal investigation.
Holder has said Justice Department lawyers are examining whether there was any “malfeasance” related to the leaking oil well, and investigators, who have already been on the coast for a month, have sent letters to BP instructing the company to preserve internal records related to the spill. But federal officials indicated that Holder’s trip, which will include a news conference in New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon, will focus on enforcement of environmental laws and holding BP accountable.
The opening of a criminal investigation or civil action against BP, if either were to happen, would create the unusual situation of the federal government weighing charges against a company that it is simultaneously depending on for the most critical elements of the response to the record oil spill.
Usually, if there is a possibility of a criminal investigation and charges in a situation like this, they are kept in abeyance until there’s some resolution to the problem. But in this case, desparate for something which will cast the administration in a favorable light, it appears this is the chosen method. Holder’s news conference will be a welcome distraction from the constant “but what are you doing to stop the leak” questions the administration gets.
That’s the act of symbolic separation.
Step two is to physically separate the administration from the
bad guys BP.
The relationship between the federal government and the oil company has been an awkward collaboration all along — “We have them by the neck,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said of BP in congressional testimony last week — but it reached a turning point Monday when the administration said it no longer wants to share a podium with BP at the daily briefing in Louisiana. Instead, the national incident commander, Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, will give a solo briefing wherever he happens to be.
It is a “we’re still in command, but it is an arm’s length, hold-your-nose, we’re forced to work with these people, command.” The perfect setup for something this administration is actually quite good at – demonization.
As for the spill itself, the next step is in contention. Apparently Carl Browner, the head of the EPA has become an expert in fluid dynamics and underwater blowout prevention:
The administration and BP have disagreed over whether the company’s next maneuver would cause a temporary increase in the flow of oil into the gulf. In the coming days, BP plans to saw off the top of the leaking riser pipe where it emerges from the blowout preventer that sits on the well. BP will then lower a containment dome, or cap, onto the riser in an attempt to capture the leaking oil. White House official Carol M. Browner said Sunday that after the pipe is cut, about 20 percent more oil would probably escape before the new cap is in place. BP officials said that they think that is unlikely and that there might be no significant change in the flow.
I’m not sure where she gets the idea that cutting the riser will allow a 20% increase in the flow. They’re cutting it, not removing it. It will still be there with the same diameter it’s always had, it’ll just be shorter so they can deal with it better.
The salient point, of course, is like it or not, the administration is stuck with BP, both in the plugging of the leak and in the clean up effort. And frankly, they wouldn’t have it any other way – this is the company that will be blamed for every failing of the administration. Note I said failing of the administration – it has a role and a duty in this disaster. What it is going to do, or at least attempt to do with this distancing, is to lay all blame on BP from this point on.
Holder’s trip to the Gulf is only the opening salvo.
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There is a lot more information that needs to come out about this thing, and I’m disturbed that numerous reports show this so-called “Freedom Flotilla” in international waters when Israel boarded, but I’m not prepared to go all Andrew Sullivan on it.
If the flotilla was indeed in international waters, then the Israelis had no business on that ship. That said, what I’m not seeing in most of the reports are facts. I’m seeing a lot of emotional statements and conjecture and posturing by various politicians and nations.
What I’ve been able to discern at this point is Israeli Commandoes descended on a ship full of “peace activists” whose only supposed desire was to run the Israeli blockade and deliver supplies to Gaza – or so their story goes. As I read more an more about it, it seems less and less likely that those “peace activists” were from the MLK/Ghandi wing of the organization.
In fact, growing evidence is they were from a much less savory part. As the commandoes descended by fast roping on to the deck, armed with paintball guns (and sidearms, holstered), they were set upon by the peaceful folks trying to make it to Gaza.
Let’s step back a moment – Israel absorbs about 6,000 rockets a year, most from the Gaza area. They’re obviously getting their arms by some route and Israel takes a keen interest in where. I can’t imagine why. So they’ve attempted to cut the sea-borne supply line with a blockade. But the blockade doesn’t prevent the delivery of aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. It’s not like they turn it all away. In fact, this flotilla is simply another attempt among many past attempts. Yid with a Lid explains:
Every few months, a flotila of boats head toward Gaza with the purpose of convincing the world press that Israel is the evil empire. Usually what happens is Israel stops the boats, directs them to an Israeli port,and Israel delivers the aid though a land route (once it was checked for weapons). Israel has a convoy delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza on a daily basis. In fact Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.
That’s how the necessities of survival have dictated it is done – if you want to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, head for the Israeli port. Mission accomplished – unless you’re an arms smuggler or looking for a fight. And it appears, more and more, that’s precisely what this flotilla was looking for – and got. It also appears the escalation of respose was probably warranted given the “peace activists” continued attacks. Here’s why:
Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.
However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapons. One soldier who came to the aid of a comrade was captured by the rioters and sustained severe blows.
The commandoes were equipped with handguns but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. When they came down from the chopper, they kept on shouting to each other “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” even though they sustained numerous blows.
Video has emerged of the commandoes being attacked with metal pipes, clubs, bats and the like. There’s also a shot of one commando being thrown over the side of one deck and landing on another, to be set upon again. Obviously the paintball gun didn’t have the desired effect. But their ROE (Rules of Engagement) said, no use of firearms unless their lives were under threat.
OK, so now what? Well, step two was to attempt to break up the attackers with stun grenades:
The forces hurled stun grenades, yet the rioters on the top deck, whose number swelled up to 30 by that time, kept on beating up about 30 commandoes who kept gliding their way one by one from the helicopter.
You’re probably saying, “but wait, these are Israeli commandoes and they were some activist rabble. The odds were pretty even. Why didn’t the commandoes just take them?” Because when you fast rope in one-by-one into a crowd of 30, it is pretty hard to get any sort of cohesive unit action going, especially when you’re set upon individually. You’re fighting for your safety from minute one.
Anyway, stun grenades didn’t disperse them, so what was the next step? Well, it was actually dictated by the “peace activists” when they disarmed and threw the commando I mentioned above over the side. It all went downhill from there:
Only after this injury did Flotilla 13 troops ask for permission to use live fire. The commander approved it: You can go ahead and fire. The soldiers pulled out their handguns and started shooting at the rioters’ legs, a move that ultimately neutralized them. Meanwhile, the rioters started to fire back at the commandoes.
“I saw the tip of a rifle sticking out of the stairwell,” one commando said. “He fired at us and we fired back. We didn’t see if we hit him. We looked for him later but couldn’t find him.” Two soldiers sustained gunshot wounds to their knee and stomach after rioters apparently fired at them using guns wrested away from troops. During the commotion, another commando was stabbed with a knife. In a later search aboard the Marmara, soldiers found caches of bats, clubs, knives, and slingshots used by the rioters ahead of the IDF takeover. It appeared the activists were well prepared for a fight.
I don’t know how “well prepared” they were, but they certainly had crude weapons (the slingshots were using glass marbles which can, at close range, kill if they hit the right spot) and a will to attack the Israelis.
None of this, by the way, excuses the Israelis from boarding a ship in international waters (if that is indeed the case). They need to answer for that. International waters makes this an illegal raid. According to reports the flotilla was intercepted 65km of the Gaza coast. But the contiguous zone is only 24 miles or 38.6km off shore.
Within this zone, a coastal state can stop and inspect vessels and act to punish (or prevent) violations of its laws within its territory or territorial waters.
However, it also seems clear that this particular flotilla was in the business of trying to provoke violence and succeeded. As the claims and counter claims come in and the usual absurd posturing takes place about the deaths caused in this incident, remember this sequence of events and what prompted what happened on board the Marmara. Certainly one can sympathize to an extent with the peace activists who actually do want to see the people of Gaza receive humanitarian supplies. And one can also get their back up at armed men attempting to prevent them from doing so freely.
But you also have to keep in mind what happens from Gaza all too many times during each year. And you have to keep in mind that self-defense is also a right. I’m sure the “peace activists” will claim they were only defending themselves and their property, and in this case, it appears to be a valid claim. However, it seems clear from the videos that they’re intent on doing a little more than just defending themselves against paintball gun wielding commandoes. And it is just as clear from the ROE and the sequenced or phased response that the Israelis had no intention, upon landing on the ship, of killing or injuring anyone.
But this is now a full-fledged international incident with all the insanity those sorts of things normally bring to the fore (NATO is meeting about this? Really? And Turkey is threatening to escort another flotilla with its navy? Oh great, that’ll lessen tensions – maybe NATO does need to meet.).
Stay tuned for more.
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I keep this photo as probably the most powerful reminder for me of what the real price of freedom looks like. Those that give their all as well as those they leave behind. We should remember both as we celebrate the freedom they’ve blessed us with and assured for us on this Memorial Day.
Dedicated to Stuart Lee Barnett, SP4, KIA, RVN, 8/26/1970. Thank you Barney – rest in peace, my friend.
Call in number: (718) 664-9614
Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.
Oil spill, Top Kill and Obama – when it appeared the top kill had succeeded, out popped Obama to take credit. Now it has failed. What are the ramifications of this spill practically, politically and for this presidency?
The Sestak affair – does any thinking person really believe that a White House serious about offering Sestak a job to keep him from challenging Arlen Spector would offer a unpaid position on an executive branch advisory board? Yeah, me neither. And now we have Clinton in the mix?
Memorial day – what it means and, with two wars going on and with the bodies of those he’s ordered into combat laying in final repose there, should the President be at Arlington tomorrow instead of Chicago?
Frank Rich has never seen an act by President Obama of which he didn’t approve or, if approval wasn’t really credibly possible, anything for which he couldn’t find an excuse. The oil spill is no exception:
Whatever Obama’s failings, he is infinitely more competent at coping with catastrophe than his predecessor. President Bush’s top disaster managers — the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, as well as the notorious “Brownie” — professed ignorance of New Orleans’s humanitarian crisis a full day after the nation had started watching it live in real time on television. When Bush finally appeared, he shunned the city entirely and instead made a jocular show of vowing to rebuild the coastal home of his party’s former Senate leader, Trent Lott. He never did take charge.
The Obama administration has been engaged with the oil spill from the start — however haltingly and inarticulately at times. It was way too trusting of BP but was never AWOL. For all the second-guessing, it’s still not clear what else the president might have done to make a definitive, as opposed to cosmetic, difference in plugging the hole: yell louder at BP, send in troops and tankers, or, as James Carville would have it, assume the role of Big Daddy? The spill is not a Tennessee Williams play, its setting notwithstanding, and it’s hard to see what more drama would add, particularly since No Drama Obama’s considerable talents do not include credible play-acting.
It’s not clear what Bush could have done (or would have had to have done) had there been a competent mayor of New Orleans or governor of LA in office. Neither did their job. So the blame fell on Bush.
Obama faces a crisis in federal waters – not state. Those are waters that are his administration’s responsibility. Blame Bush won’t work. And neither will attempts to duck the Katrina comparisons.
Rich speaks of “airbrushing” of the facts surrounding Katrina. I must have missed that. But that is precisely what has already begun in the defense of Obama with this claim that he and his administration were “engaged” from “day one”. Reactions to oil spills which are standard operating procedure regardless of who is in office are not “engagement”. In fact, most wouldn’t consider them to have become really engaged in the spill for a week or two and then, it appeared to be minimally and reluctantly. In fact, it appeared to be a distraction, an annoyance of which the administration would prefer to be relieved.
If there is any “airbrushing” going on, the left has definitely been engaged in that since “day one”.
Rich claims that it was Bush who made the masses doubt the competence of government (with his Katrina performance). He says:
Long before Obama took office, the public was plenty skeptical that government could do anything right. Eight years of epic Bush ineptitude and waste only added to Washington’s odor. Now Obama is stuck between a rock and a Tea Party. His credibility as a champion of reformed, competent government is held hostage by video from the gulf. And this in an election year when the very idea of a viable federal government is under angrier assault than at any time since the Gingrich revolution and militia mobilization of 1994-5 and arguably since the birth of the modern conservative movement in the 1960s.
But why is the “idea of a viable federal government” under assault?
As usual, Rich wants’ to blame it on Bush. It is a tried and true blame shifting device that progressives have been deploying for the 18 months Obama’s been in office. They don’t seem to realize, however, that it lost its cache after about 6 months. This is Obama’s show now, and as Peggy Noonan points out, the problem is competence:
This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn’t like about the Bush administration, everything it didn’t like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point—they know it without being told—but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush’s incompetence and conservatives’ failure to “believe in government.” But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent.
But, as Noonan points out, over these 18 months, more and more Americans have come to the conclusion he’s not. Those are pretty ugly thoughts when it comes to this president to some I suppose, but in fact, he’s demonstrated nothing to persuade most people otherwise.
And it is the image of the deep water oil well gushing oil into the Gulf that Noonan turns into metaphor of the Obama presidency and why his competence is questioned. Think taxpayer and the borrowed money his administration has been responsible for spending, think the proposed trillion dollar budgets as far as the eye can see, think his disconnection with the priorities of the people for favored agenda items.
While this disaster might rightfully shine a light on BP and the oil industry’s lack of planning for such a problem, it also erodes the ability of politicians to sell government as the most competent answer to our problems. Government has a specific role for which it is most suited. Defense, legal and judicial systems, stable currency, and minimal legislation to enable and oversee those systems.
Beyond that, it becomes intrusive, cumbersome, highly bureaucratic, unresponsive and expensive. The oil spill simply points this out fairly graphically. Health care reform, as it comes into play over the years, will reinforce that point even further.
Noonan, who I believe supported the Obama candidacy, is bothered by the effect the spill and Obama’s disconnectedness and inept governing to this point will have on his presidency. It is I think her way of saying, in a nuanced way, that she regrets her choice:
The disaster in the Gulf may well spell the political end of the president and his administration, and that is no cause for joy. It’s not good to have a president in this position—weakened, polarizing and lacking broad public support—less than halfway through his term. That it is his fault is no comfort. It is not good for the stability of the world, or its safety, that the leader of “the indispensable nation” be so weakened. I never until the past 10 years understood the almost moral imperative that an American president maintain a high standing in the eyes of his countrymen.
For the most part, I agree with her point that we and the world are best served by a President who is held in high esteem by his or her citizenry. But that’s something that is earned, not just given. This man sought the presidency after slamming the competence of his predecessor on every occasion possible. And when confronted by a disaster of his own, we get this:
Mr. Obama himself, when running for president, made much of Bush administration distraction and detachment during Katrina. Now the Republican Party will, understandably, go to town on Mr. Obama’s having gone before this week only once to the gulf, and the fund-raiser in San Francisco that seemed to take precedence, and the EPA chief who decided to cancel a New York fund-raiser only after the press reported that she planned to attend.
You reap what you sow. When you slam the opposition and their leader as incompetent (I recall that word used often by sitting Democratic leadership) you imply that if you’re elected, you won’t be incompetent. It’s his standard and right now he’s hoist on his own petard.
Most impartial observers haven’t seen much competence displayed in the past 18 months. Not only has the administration seemingly not been up to the job, they’ve attempted to continue the blame-shifting that worked for the first 6 months of their existence, apparently still not realizing who is now President of the United States.
This is all yours, Mr. Obama.
Lead or go find something else to do.
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