Before the tar balls had a chance to touch down on the white sands of the Gulf Coast – the message from the oil-soaked Republican Party was clear: “Don’t exploit the disaster…if you’re a Democrat.” But if you’re a member of the GOP, feel free to exploit this endless spill for political gain. Use it as a battering ram against the president. “Obama’s Katrina.” “Obama un-American for criticizing BP.” “The moratorium is worse than the spill.” “Obama isn’t doing enough.” “Government is bad – where’s the National Guard?” So on and so forth.
But don’t try to pass an energy policy in the wake of the biggest environmental catastrophe this country has ever witnessed. That’s exploitive. Crude.
The “don’t exploit this tragedy” knee-jerk catch-all phrase is absolutely meaningless. In American politics, we rule by crisis. There is no political will to act unless something is burning, melting or spewing. We don’t plan for the future – we brace for it. Our policies are all emergency-based. Our country is like someone who won’t pay their bills until they get a shut off notice.
“We can wait no longer! Now is the time!”
The Republican’s hands-off philosophy back when they held all three branches of government enabled a horde of deregulated industries with imaginary blow-out preventers to burst: the banks, Wall Street, the auto industry, the housing market etc. We’ve had to attend to these disasters, one after another. Tipping point after tipping point. Cliff after cliff.
The one issue Obama did address when it was only slightly gangrene was health care. Yet this is also the issue he gets criticized for doing instead of mopping up the Armageddon-of-the-month.
Appointed Arizona Governor Jan Brewer enjoys exploiting a tragedy to defend her disastrous-to-civil-rights immigration law. Have any Republicans admonished her for it? Nope. It’s a showdown – and Obama is IGNORING the crisis! Even though most statistics admit both incidents of violence and illegal immigration at the border had already declined. Even though “securing the border” is as ambiguous and unobtainable as “wiping out terror.” Even though according to Arizona Republic, the Customs and Border Protection, the federal law enforcement agency has an annual budget of $17 billion, doubling what was spent in 2003. “I have repeatedly sent letters to the administration and to the president of the United States with absolutely no response,” Brewer said on Fox News. It’s like calling your elderly relative just to have them bark at you that you never call. I can’t imagine why Brewer would get ignored.
But if a perennial progressive issue turns into a crisis – tragedy is suddenly sacred. A mass shooting at a school? Don’t exploit this tragedy to talk about gun control. Miners killed due to hazardous conditions? Don’t exploit this tragedy to empower unions. Our Gulf Coast lost for a generation because of drilling shortcuts? Don’t exploit this dead gulf or you’ll kill jobs.
The point is: Obama should exploit this tragedy in the Gulf. Not “exploiting the tragedy” is saying the status quo is perfect. Don’t do anything. Just wait out the clock.
Yes, just like the “actions” of the 109th Congress – the last one controlled by Republican majorities in both houses. When the Republicans set the agenda, they met a whopping 242 days in two years, which was 12 fewer days than the 80th Congress, the first to be dubbed a Do-Nothing Congress by President Harry Truman. The 109th had an average of eight months off a year – because nothing celebrates government ineffectiveness more than a gig in Congress being a nearly no-show job.
“But if we seize this moment we can rebuild our economy on a new foundation,” said President Obama on his Organizing for America site thisweek.
Please, exploit this crisis. Make it the reason a spill like this won’t happen again. “The only real solution is to take American ingenuity to get energy in different forms,” Microsoft’s Bill Gates said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Gates proposes spending one percent ($11 billion annually) of what we spend on energy for research and development.
Finally an idea, not just a denial with a chant. “Drill, baby, drill.”
Yes. Exploit this crisis and exploit the clean renewable natural resources inspired by Bill Gates – the country’s nerds.
Yes, this third wave is complicated. But at least it’s interesting.