“Never confuse movement with action.” – Ernest Hemmingway
Almost every time you read an Applebaum column in the Washington Post, you will be reminded that the author is a conservative. Such clues are necessary because, unlike Charles Krauthammer, you would never know from reading Annie's copy. Applebaum is in danger of giving tokenism and affirmative action a bad name.
Indeed, Ms. Applebaum reads more like E.J. Dionne on a bad hair day. Take her recent contribution, "The oil spill isn't Obama's Katrina,"(Wash Post, 15 June) where she absolves the administration for the accident and its consequences. With such reasoning Ms. Applebaum qualifies for an "s--t (rhymes with twit) happens" tee shirt, or maybe a bumper sticker that reads; THE BUCK STOPS WITH BP.
More than a few facts are ignored or distorted in Ms. Applebaum’s argument. First, the accident wasn’t a spill; it was a blowout (aka leak). Second, Katrina was an "act of God," as lawyers are wont to say, and the blowout was man-made. Thirdly, if you give government, at any level, an excuse to do nothing - it will do nothing. A fourth feature of the problem, overlooked by Applebaum, is that federal restrictions in safe areas have pushed oil seekers to deeper waters where the hazards are greater.
Nonetheless, the Oval Office response to the Gulf disaster from the start was too little and way too late. The initial posture was "not our problem," and a storm of invective was hurled at the most visible industry culprit. In fact, there were several industries and a host of government culprits including the Minerals Management Service (MMS). When the MMS chief, Elizabeth Birnbaum, was fired; the President either did not know, or lied, about the firing to a room full of complicit journalists. If the government could do nothing, why fire the hapless Ms. Birnbaum?
Instead of marshaling every resource, foreign and domestic, to manage the damage, political and Press nitwits insisted on quibbling for two months about estimates of the "flow," as if they didn't know that precise flow could only be known once the flow was captured. Here we have a legitimate Katrina flashback. Remember those early Press casualty estimates; those 10,000 Katrina dead that never materialized?
The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a case study of a flawed model of governance. Like all liberal or socialist models, the internal contradictions are insurmountable. On the one hand, the statist argues for more government hands in every detail of life - until government fails; and then he blames everyone except the “managers” feeding at the public trough.
The knee jerk reaction of the Oval Office to the Gulf disaster was to point fingers and look backwards. Somehow, even after years in power, four if you count a Democrat Congress, the previous administration is still blamed for all of our ills. The "blame Bush" irredentism is a creepy echo of Communist era paranoia when totalitarian failures were laid at the feet of Imperialists and counter revolutionaries.
The excuse making of Ms. Applebaum and like minded apologists does nothing but resurrect all the original doubts about a politician who was thought to be a callow amateur; an inexperienced, empty suit with a good rap. The "community organizer" model is one that sees management as a public relations problem; i.e. you manage the crisis by controlling the spin.
The drilling embargo announced shortly after the blowout is illustrative. Before the explosion, the White House was for more drilling, after the accident, a moratorium was announced - natural disaster would now be compounded by economic suicide. Halting new drilling is like shooting the wounded. What's next, grounding every airline after the another crash?
Stephen Chu’s resume is another swirl in the spin cycle. The White House seeks to reassure a skeptical public by mentioning the Energy Secretary’s Nobel Prize at every opportunity. Mentioning Chu’s physics prize does nothing but illuminate his lack of experience as a crisis manager or drilling engineer. Dr. Chu’s prize is about as relevant to the Gulf problem as Mr. Obama’s prize was to world peace. Credentials may be necessary, but they are never sufficient.
Ms. Applebaum, like the White House, seems oblivious to the big picture; that is how to achieve energy independence and minimize risk. There are no risk free solutions and there are no silver bullets either; there are only painful trade offs. Most hobby horse technologies amount to expensive wishful thinking while proven solutions like nuclear power languish because of opposition from the left. The same “progressive” factions that oppose safe shallow water exploration and safe drilling on federal lands are also anti-nuclear.
So again the nation is in peril because politicians can not overcome ideological or obstructionist partisans. The true villains in the Gulf disaster are vacuums; a want of political leadership and a lack of legislative courage.
Anne Applebaum is correct about one thing; the Gulf oil blowout is not another hurricane; it's much worse by orders of magnitude. The White House and Congress are hurling charges about a "reckless" oil industry in the vain hope that nobody notices the public servants who continue to posture and dither at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
It is more dangerous to work on a drill rig or a deep sea fishing boat than it is to serve in combat. The risks and sacrifices of oil workers are seldom noted by politicians or industry critics. Death by fire is a horrible end.
Until the blowout, BP was one of the most successful companies of modern times. Would that public services of any sort be half as productive or competent. Big enterprises, like BP, create jobs and wealth; big government consumes wealth and often smothers enterprise. It is obscene for any politician to suggest that safety is not a constant concern of those who take the risks as a condition of their employment.
BP has lost half its market value since the accident; were governments to shrink comparably when they fail, taxpayers might be better served. The problem with our notion of “public servants” is that only half of the phrase is true.
Ms. Applebaum's brand of journalistic agnotology recently won a Pulitzer Prize, a tribute which should put to rest any doubts about her politics. Indeed, she and fellow laureate, Janet Cooke, now share the same pedestal and similar fantasies.
This article originally appeared in the 22 June 10 edition of Family Security Matters.
- G. Murphy Donovan
- The author is a native of the Bronx, a transplant to DC. He is a Vietnam veteran and former USAF Intelligence officer with tours at all of the major 3 button Intelligence agencies. He is a graduate of the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. School and Cardinal Hayes HS in NYC. He also has several degrees from less illustrious institutions. Check Six writes primarily at G. Murphy Donovan and Agnotology in Journalism. His work has appeared in various political, national security, and Intelligence journals.