Yes, the BP oil spill is Obama???s Katrina

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Marc Thiessen
Copyright 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010; 4:11 PM

In the Gulf of Mexico, howling winds gathered and swooped down on the coast, ruining homes, destroying levees and flooding the city of New Orleans. It was an ecological disaster. It was an economic nightmare. And there was absolutely nothing the the American president could do about it. Nothing at all. In her column today, my Post colleague Anne Applebaum points out that ???The U.S. government does not possess a secret method for capping oil leaks.??? She is correct. The U.S. government also did not possess a secret method for stopping hurricanes. But President Bush was not blamed for his failure to stop Hurricane Katrina; he was blamed for the federal response that followed the storm. Today, Americans know Obama cannot control the oil flow in the gulf, and they do not hold him responsible for it. But they do hold him responsible for the federal response -- and the failure of that response is what makes this disaster "Obama???s Katrina." As the New York Times points out today, the response to the spill has been "chaotic" -- "bedeviled by a lack of preparation, organization, urgency, and clear lines of authority.... As a result the damage to the coastline and wildlife has been worse than it might have been if the response had been faster and orchestrated more effectively." Yesterday, after waiting eight weeks with no action from BP or Washington, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) finally took matters into his own hands and ordered the National Guard to build barrier walls nine miles off the coast to keep oil from reaching the Louisiana shore. Why did Jindal have to wait 56 days for help that never came? Shouldn???t the president have marshaled those resources himself -- and then, like Jindal, promised to send BP the bill? And why not the same for beach clean up? Or the broken claims process that has left tens of thousands without money to feed their families? After Hurricane Katrina, scores of commentators on the left told us that the weak federal response was the result of Bush???s anti-government ideology -- if you do not believe in government, they said, how can you marshal the government to respond in a crisis? As the liberal American Prospect put it in October 2005, "When America needed its officials to step up to the challenge of a massive disaster, conservative government let us down." Well now liberal government has let us down. Now we have a president who believes in government more than perhaps any before in our history -- and on his watch the federal response to a massive disaster has been nothing short of a debacle. Apparently government is just as lumbering and inefficient under Democrats as it was under Republicans. The irony is that Obama has insisted on treating this crisis as if he were a caricature of a radical libertarian -- outsourcing every aspect to BP. Containing the oil slick so it does not reach the Gulf shore? BP???s problem. Brining in workers for beach clean up? BP???s problem. Speaking at the University of Michigan recently, Obama delivered a rousing defense of government -- but when it came to the crisis in the gulf he declared: "Government is what ensures that... oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them." If Bush had similarly outsourced the federal response to such a crisis, he would have been pilloried in the press. Yet Obama -- a self-professed advocate of big government solutions to virtually every problem facing America -- thinks this particular problem belongs to the private sector. The hypocrisy is rank. Perhaps he needs to start thinking of the crisis in the gulf as a "shovel-ready project" -- or a teaching moment for Americans on how effective big government can be. Don???t hold your breath waiting for that lesson to start anytime soon.


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