Inept Leadership, or Something More?

June 20th, 2010 by Lee Eldridge

SpockI start this post with some trepidation. I’m not sure I want to open this can of worms. I don’t want to believe that what I’m beginning to fear is real. My conservative friends are going to say, “This is what we’ve been trying to tell you.” My liberal friends are going to say, “You’re a Republican-loving idiot. And Obama is still better than Bush.”

At the end of this, I have a favor to ask, especially from my liberal friends.

To kick this off, I have three quotes that have continued to circulate through my brain. Keep these in mind as you read this post.

1. “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” — Rahm Emanuel

2.  “The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now… (B)ut only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment.” — President Obama from his address to the nation earlier this week. Full transcript here.

3. “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” — Spock

Reasons for Human Behavior
I’ve always loved Spock’s intellect and insight. His analytical mind, yet his openness to believe what should be unbelievable. I think we often try to make things more complicated than they need to be. Human behavior is really fairly predictable. People do things for various reasons. And typically those reasons are fairly simple. To do good. To make money. To have fun. To change the world. Accomplishing our goals may not be so simple, but the reasons for our actions typically are.

I have been approaching my criticism of President Obama and his handling, or mishandling, of this oil crisis from a fairly simple perspective. That his lack of leadership skills have dramatically compounded an environmental catastrophe. But what if there’s another purpose at play?

Rejecting International Assistance
Let’s walk through what I consider some critical mistakes by the administration. Not in plugging the damn hole, but in helping to protect our environment and coastline from the oil.

April 20: Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes, and oil begins gushing into the ocean.

April 23: The Dutch, who have experience cleaning up oil, offer ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposes a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands. It’s been reported that these ships can remove 20,000 tons of oil and sludge per day from the ocean. According to Geert Visser, the counsul general for the Netherlands: “The embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,'”.

May 5: The State Department reported that thirteen international offers of aid had been tendered and the government would decide which to accept “in the next two days”. Two weeks later, it said it did not need any of them.

May 19: The administration has continued to leave BP in charge of both plugging the hole and the cleanup of the oil. When asked about the international offers, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters “We’ll let BP decide what expertise they do need.”

Does that sound like the administration is in charge as they’ve often proclaimed?

At one point (unclear of the date), Coast Guard Lt. Commander Christopher T. O’Neil said that “all qualifying offers of assistance have been accepted.” But this is hugely misleading. There is an old law on the books called the Jones Act which limits foreign vessels from engaging in certain activities in our waters. In comparison, on day four after Katrina, then President Bush through an executive order waived the Jones Act so that we could accept international offers of aid. President Obama has chosen not to do this, thus most of the offers for aid are not “qualifying offers”. Countries have offered ships, skimmers and booms. Other countries have offered chemical dispersants that help to break down the oil in the water. BP was willing to contribute $360 million to help pay for sand berms to protect Louisiana, but this too was rejected because they were not “qualifying offers”.

A Precedent has Been Set
President Obama already has a record of saying one thing, but doing another. This certainly is not uncommon for a politician. It’s been clear since Obama took office that the economy and jobs have never been high on his priority list. The Stimulus Bill provided little stimulus. The administration said it would save and create jobs. The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) said that by 2011, the bill would have NO net affect on job creation. IBD (Investors Business Daily) predicted that it would make things worse. That it was just a big government spending bill. The administration pushed it through, and things have gotten worse. It appears to me that IBD was correct.

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog was about how Cash for Clunkers was a green program, and not a stimulus program as it was often described by the administration.

And the administration continues to press for legislation that will hurt our recovery such as cap and trade.

The administration has said that jobs are their top priority, but they’ve done little to help the economy. And much of their legislative agenda will do just the opposite.

The administration has said they’ve done everything possible to protect our coastline and environment from the oil, but the facts indicate otherwise.

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Whatever Remains, However Improbable, Must be the Truth
I have repeatedly commented on what I have seen as a lack of leadership from President Obama. My criticisms began long before this crisis. And I still contend that Obama is a poor executive. Many of my liberal friends continue to tell me I’m wrong. So why has he not waived the Jones Act? Why have we rejected numerous offers of aid when it’s clear that we need the help? Why has he left BP in charge of the cleanup for so long? Can you explain this to me?

President Obama is a smart man. He is surrounded by smart people. They have a reason for their actions, and their inactions.

If it’s not poor leadership, then what is it? Is the administration using this crisis to push their own agenda? By their own words, it is clear that they are.

“The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now… (B)ut only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment.”

Would the administration intentionally drag their feet and ignore opportunities to help cleanup the oil to further exasperate the crisis? I have a very difficult time believing that ANY President would do this. But I’m also have a hard time attributing all of these decisions to poor leadership. I’m beginning to fear that to further the cause of green energy, we have intentionally let this crisis spin out of control. It paints an ugly picture.

A Favor
So what favor do I ask, particularly of my liberal friends? Tell me why my fears are wrong. Persuade me that there’s another purpose, a reasonable plan, for why we have rejected these offers of international aid. I want to believe. I’m just finding it tough at the moment.

And as Spock would say, “Live long, and prosper”.


10 Responses to “Inept Leadership, or Something More?”

  1. ralphie Says:

    I think this president has shown the ability to be very nuanced in his thinking, and sometimes makes reality-based decisions that piss of his party and at times the american people. His is privvy to information that you and I do not have access to. At the same time, he sits atop an impossibly large beuracracy that doesnt ever seem to be able to respond to an emergency effictively. Is that his fault? Partially but not totally.

    I find it impossible to believe that 60 days into this crisis that Obama and his team and BP wouldnt adopt the Dutch’s approach or any other successful approach that 1 week into the disaster they declined to adopt.

    I totally agree that Obama was slow to react to this tragedy on a PR level, and there is always more that can be done in the face such a historic disaster. Thanks to the loser Republicans in the last administration and who run oil companies, thats who should really blame in your posts. Did you see the virtually identical copies of their ‘gulf disaster recovery plans’?

    Obama is going to clean up the mess and the framework that led to this disaster. If an R were Prez, what would be the totality of what they would ‘clean up’? I think Joe Barton gives a clue there (and he will be chairman of the energy committee if the Rs take the house).

    Is Obama still 1000% better than W or the Maverick or Palin as Prez, yes!

  2. ralphie Says:

    Another good point I just heard someone make – Clearly BP lied about how much oil was coming out of the well, saying initially it was only 1000 barrels a day, when in fact its 50-100k+barrels a day. Our government intially planned its repsonse based on these projections.

  3. Lance Says:

    I like your thinking Lee, I’m right with you.

  4. Bobby Says:

    Nuance? I guess that’s the liberal way to explain the unexplainable.

    Maybe at day 10 you could excuse Obama for not accepting aid thinking that BP could control the disaster. But what’s the excuse at day 60? Cmon ralphie, you aren’t really giving him a pass on this are you? Obama wasn’t just slow on the PR, he was slow to take ANY action, and for the most part, we’re still waiting.

  5. Lee Eldridge Says:

    Hello Ralphie, You write: “I find it impossible to believe that 60 days into this crisis that Obama and his team and BP wouldnt adopt the Dutch’s approach or any other successful approach that 1 week into the disaster they declined to adopt.”

    I can’t believe it either, but it’s true. Without waiving the Jones Act, we cannot accept most of the offers that have been made for assistance. The foreign vessels and foreign workers that come along with them can’t work in our waters while the Jones Act is in effect. And I’d like to know why Obama has failed to waive it. If Bush or McCain or Palin were president, would you be giving me the same response? If we were sitting here at day 60 and Bush had failed to waive the Jones Act, failed to accept offers of international assistance, liberals would be screaming their heads off about how Bush is in bed with BP, and failing to handle the crisis.

    I’m not accusing Obama of being in bed with BP. I just want a reasonable and intelligent explanation of why the administration has done so little to help the cleanup efforts.

  6. Nice Christain Man Says:

    Inept Leadership, or Something More?

    Lee, what a thoughtful and constructive set of ideas and questions you bring to the table. Very nicely done. “This” is how dialog on these topics should be done. We each need to have a desire to “seek to understand” knowing that we each do that from our own vantage point.

  7. Julie A Says:

    Now Iran offers their help!!….hmm..wonder what Obama will do with this offer…..

  8. Lee Eldridge Says:

    Hey Julie, since we’ve refused assistance from friendly nations, not much of a chance we’ll be taking it from Iran. Not that I’d trust Iran in the first place. 🙂

  9. Julie A Says:

    WE wouldn’t, but would Obama?!?!?

    Anyways, Federal Gov’t Halts Sand Berm Dredging –

    I wonder if its time for the people in that region to start disobeying federal orders and start doing what needs to be done to save themselves, their coast, their marshes….

  10. Obama’s Agenda — Different Than We Were Told | Lee Eldridge Says:

    […] Oil Spill I’ve written another post recently about the administration’s mistakes in the cleanup of the oil from BP’s […]