I have railed against some of the shortcomings during the BP oil well blowout with great vigor during the past few weeks. I wanted to know why we weren’t getting more accurate measurements on the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf. I wanted to know why we were being shown low definition images of the leak, when higher definition ones obviously existed. I wanted to know why BP was wasting its money trying to tell us how good things were going with an expensive television ad campaign when putting cash on the street was the only tangible way to begin to show the people of the Gulf region the message those ads were trying to convey.
I actually wrote the words “since BP is not financially able to put $20 billion in an escrow account that we can debit as needed for clean-up costs, economic damages, and fines” ten days ago on this very blog because I liked the escrow account idea, but thought it would never fly. And I have been extremely critical of the booming techniques we have continued to rely on for decades that even folks in the oil industry are willing to admit just won’t work.
So I’ve been very impressed with the changes that have occurred over the last few days. I don’t invest a lot of energy in “what if’s?” or “what could we have done differently?” when we are still in the throes of a crisis, especially since the past is unalterable. Arguing over “woulda, coulda, shoulda”, TV pundit style, is the biggest waste of energy in this whole mess.
We are now sending down instruments to measure the flow of oil out of the world’s most famous riser pipe. And President Obama, he of the “no drama” school of leadership, has extracted a commitment for a $20 billion dollar cash down payment on the damages this catastrophe has caused from BP, a feat no other president in the history of this country has managed to pull off while the catastrophe in question is still ongoing. The boom is still being laid improperly, but I will have to give credit to the White House for its efforts in the other areas I have complained about as heartily as I denounced the original decisions.
None of my own caterwauling was because the leak wasn’t being plugged fast enough. This is not a TV action series problem, or a theoretical one in which the only variable is the leak itself. I really cannot imagine what it must be like to try to deal with such a thorny problem, but there is no doubt in my mind that the people working on getting this solved are much more motivated than we spectators are—especially those of us spectators who call themselves the media.
Is the government’s response perfect?
But calculating whether or not Obama has a politically successful presidency right now because he has not met some imaginary standard of success is a pundits pastime, an esoteric exercise in conjecture that means very little to those whose family members lost their lives in this disaster, or those whose sources of employment have disappeared.
Reagan would have acted his way out of this. Clinton would have talked his way out. Bush would have conferred with Cheney.
Obama will think his way out of this, the same way he promised us he would almost eighteen months ago, and the same way he actually does it every single day, many thousands of highly charged synapse firing incessantly until he and his team arrive at the necessary resolution.
No chest beating required.