Thursday, June 17, 2010

GULF OIL SPILL - Expectations

"Obama's Spill Response Examined Following Oval Office Address" PBS Newshour Transcript (includes video) 6/16/2010


CYNTHIA TUCKER (editorial page editor, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution): I think that pivot point will come when the oil stops, when the well is finally plugged. That will happen. It will happen in August. That's a natural pivot point. The president should have waited until then.

And, if he's going to use the Oval Office, it ought to be a big, inspirational address to say, we have fixed that problem. The environmental crisis continues. We will be working on that for decades. Let's pitch forward and talk about ending our addiction to petroleum.

And he didn't do nearly enough of that. Let me also say, however, I -- I feel sorry for the president. He's facing a huge challenge here. He is getting reams of advice from foes and allies alike, most of it in the neighborhood of do something.

And he -- there is not a whole lot the president can do here. This is a crisis that is -- he didn't create. It is beyond his control. The government has no capacity to plug an oil well a mile beneath the ocean.

But it is in the portfolio of the presidency to somehow -- sometimes have to deal with outsized expectations from voters. And, so, for good or for ill, fairly or not, he does own this crisis now.

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Ellen Fitzpatrick, let's talk about these outsized expectations that so many people seem to have. For instance, there's a new Pew poll that shows most people think that offshore drilling is still a good idea. However, they also think that limiting carbon emissions is also a good idea.

How does a president, not just only this one, but presidents over time, how do they handle these kind of competing desires on the parts of the public?

ELLEN FITZPATRICK: I think it's extremely difficult to deal with these issues, and particularly for President Obama, who is dealing on the one hand with demands that the federal government do something very concrete, not only to stop this spill, but to compensate people who, rightly, have been deprived of their livelihoods, and to address the long-term social and environmental impact of this catastrophe.

So, there's that. But, at the same time, there are people who are very critical, and some of the very same people, of the over-reach of the federal government in the Obama administration. So, it's a time of very complex attitudes towards the federal government, per se, that President Obama is having to deal with as well.

Fifty-two percent of the public soundly, resoundingly disapproved of George Bush's handling of Exxon Valdez as having been inadequate. They wanted him to federalize the whole problem, and he refused to do so. So, presidents face these expectations.

They face the limits of the presidency, and they do their best, for the most part, within that to try to address the long-term consequences. Obama has actually done more than his predecessors already in that regard.

The expectations of the public ARE misguided. The oil spill itself cannot be stopped by the federal government (nor local/state), it is a technical issue that only the experts on oil drilling can solve.

The Administration IS doing what it (government) is designed to do, and can do. Ensure that BP is doing what it should technically (including the Administration using outside expert advice), and addressing compensation for those effected. Providing oversight on the effort to plug the leak. Leading an effort to address shortfalls in drilling regulations which Congress will have to address. Seeking advice and input from local and state officials in the effected areas.

We Americans really need to understand that this is a VERY BIG disaster that cannot be fixed as quickly as we may want.

What we should be demanding, from Congress (Republican & Democrat) not the Administration, is to address the question, "Should we be continue to allow deep-water drilling WITHOUT in-place plans and procedures for fixing drilling failures (unique in deep-water) such as the present one?"

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