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A driller’s lament

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

The Gulf oil spill is, above all, an environmental calamity and an economic disaster for the people of the gulf. But it is also political theater. Chris Satullo argues in this week’s Centre Square commentary that, while Barack Obama’s performance is getting panned by some critics, it’s important to remember he didn’t author this the tragic script.

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Most of us can agree, I’d imagine, that the Obama administration has made a political hash out of the Gulf oil spill.

The president hasn’t nailed either half of the required theatrics: the righteous rage toward BP and the rest, of the Clintonesque quivering lip that shows he feels the Gulf Coast’s pain.

But we do understand a few things, don’t we? The latest Gallup Poll suggests that many of us do. Such as:

The inability to stem the leak is a technical issue, not one of political will. It is a failure of engineering know-how, not leadership.

It’s not that people aren’t trying to stop the oil from gushing. They’ve tried everything they could think of, and nothing worked.

And that’s the scary thing.

Which drives you back to deeper points. What in the world were we doing letting corporations drill this deep if we couldn’t curb the damage should something go wrong? And why let corporations follow their own judgment when it comes to keeping things from going terribly wrong?

Those mistakes date back to long before the current president.

Some people now deem it very bad form to point out that any current calamity is very significantly the fault of George W. Bush. Of course, many of the people who say that have spent the last 40 years blaming everything that goes wrong in America on a couple of Supreme Court decisions and a few hairy protesters back in the 60s.

Fact is, we do have political parties in this country, and they are different.

Only one party has made a national project out of limiting rules on business and defanging the agencies that enforce those rules. Only one party chants Drill, Baby, Drill!

As you may have heard, the agency that was supposed to help prevent calamities like the spill is a mess, a watchdog put to sleep by bribes as cheap as tickets to a football game.

Ask yourself: Which president was himself a driller, who made it his agenda to to put industry executives in charge of the agencies that regulate industry?

Hint, it wasn’t Barack Obama. It was that guy before him.

Just thought I’d mention that before we all swallow hole the emerging media theme that the spill is Obama’s Katrina.


  • Steven J says:

    I’m glad somebody else sees politics for the theater it has become and can point that out, remind us of it. However, for those whose minds have been made up regardless of the facts, this commentary will go over their heads. Thank you, Chris, for a voice of reason. Very refreshing.

  • Paul Simons says:

    I didn’t go quite far enough – after reading the comments Mr. Kairis posted it appears to me that knowingly, intentionally installing ‘regulators’ who would not regulate is a breach of the public trust and should be prosecutable. Without naming names, there may be elected officials who were at the very highest levels of the Bush administration who belong behind bars.

  • Bernie Kairis says:

    Right on Mr. Satullo. It’s so refreshing to hear the truth. As frustrating as the inability to stop the Gulf oil spill is, it is a technical problem that resulted from the train wreck that was the Bush Administration. The Bush regime was one consisting of oil men and women with a narrow minded mindset bent on benefiting big oil. Remember the Bush administration solicited no less than the criminal ethics of Ken Lay to create their energy policy. When it came to regulation they installed cronies as foxes to guard the hen houses. To Cheney conservation was a “quaint idea”. And whose oil derived false logic gave us Iraq war. Obama is now dealing with the legacy from the previous administration. If he does nothing to repair it then he will be deserving of criticism of being as incompetent as his predecessor.

  • Paul Simons says:

    I have tried myself to find the right words to define the cause and effect of this absolute catastrophe, to find the people who are to blame. I think we need to respect big industry, whether in the energy sector, or construction or manufacturing, from drilling wells to constructing highways, bridges, and tunnels, to making cellphones and mp3 players, to creating vaccines against disease, to putting up wind turbines. Ultimately we all benefit. But a line was crossed here and Mr. Satullo clearly identified it. It was and is Republican policy, adhered to and expanded by Bush, Cheney, Palin, Limbaugh, the whole pack, to place business profits first and public safety second. I’ll bet Don Blankenship and Massey Energy are incredibly relieved that the oil spill, which killed about 10 and is on the way to making the Southeastern US a condemned toxic wasteland, has pushed their mine disaster, caused by once again lax safety enforcement, and killing about 30, off the front page. In my opinion the executives who made illegal decisions, and the regulators who did nothing about it, should serve prison time.

  • finally! says:

    Thank you Chris Satullo! Finally – some says it loud and glaringly clear.

  • Blass says:

    He blames Bush because he’d rather not spend the time covering up for his guy.

  • gg says:

    Offshore drilling goes back as far as the 19th century. This kind of accident could have happened any time over the last 25 years. How can you blame this on Bush? The slow response after Katrina was also a lack of know-how, and not lack of political will. But of course you would never see it that way.

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