Friday, June 4, 2010

Look, Up In The Sky!!!

Modern telecommunications caused the death of the phone booth. No more do these boxes dot the landscape, with their large, boxy phones, and Yellow Pages on a metal arm, with a door that can closed to lock out the rest of the world so you can make a phone call and hear the other person, keeping your private business, just that: private. Gone, like the milk man, the ice man, and the lamplighter.

As such, this is not doubt why President Obama has not stopped the oil leaking from the broken pipe in the Gulf of Mexico. With no phone booths available, he is not able to leap into the nearest one, strip off his suit, revealing the blue union suit with the large, stylized "S" on the chest, and the red cape and boots. Unable to divest himself of his mild-mannered alter-ego, he must watch helplessly as tar balls litter the beaches and oil continues to gush into the crystal waters of the Gulf.

It is becoming increasingly apparent, that those in both the conservative and liberal camps are quite disappointed in President Obama's response to the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster. You knew the conservatives would be, because, frankly, they don't like anything he does that undermines the spirit of their attempts to plunge the nation into the serfdom of large corporations, or that points out the many failures of the previous administration. Mind you, they are circumspect enough not to mention their hands in creating this disaster from whole cloth, by allowing the oil industry free reign within the Department of the Interior.

What is more troubling is the liberal rhetoric, declaring that the President is being too lethargic, is not "in control" of the situation, and has not done all he can do to see it resolved, as if he is required to take personal command of the situation, like Roosevelt handling WWII, or Lincoln, The Civil War. The prior administration set the bar so low that it was easy enough for the current administration to surpass, but doing so without the fanfare and fireworks that was the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Resources were mobilized, the Federal government got in with BP to monitor their attempts to stem the flow of oil, and various agencies began assessing what was being done and looking at short- and long-term impacts of both the spill itself and the attempt to stop it. As with anything, Federal agencies are ponderous and slow, and yes, while much could be done to speed them up, caution must be applied, for to go too far in a zealous attempt to solve the problem could result in making it far worse.

All of it, not good enough.

In the realm of expectations, President Obama has literally been in a no-win situation since his candidacy. Besting Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries set a large number of people on edge. When it was clear that he was making headway against John McCain, people became cautiously optimistic, especially when he showed flashes of being Presidential that the older war hero could not muster. And when, on that November day, he was vaulted into the history books, a mantel was placed on his shoulders that swiftly became the a yolk, turning him into a modern Atlas, suffering under the weight of the world. Suddenly, groups that only maintained vain hope of seeing their causes addressed, were now sure that President Obama would ride into the White House, and sweep away the detritus of eight years with one long, swinging motion of his hand. Things would be set right instantaneously, as if he were a time traveler, come back to alter the time stream and erase the malfeasance of an evil counterpart.

The collective amnesia of the electorate can be excused, in as much as his election to the office was a sea change of epic proportions. Any doubts that things would be different were stowed away. He had to be better than his predecessor.

What the electorate failed to remember, in the haze of victory, is that the President is a solitary figure, and only one-third of the Federal government. While a Presidential candidate is required to talk a good game, in order to get elected, the landscape is very different when one occupies the Oval Office. President Obama no doubt intended to change the culture of Washington, D.C., but found that it was not quite as easy as he'd made it out to be during the campaign. It did not help that a Democratically-controlled Congress could not get out of its own way, sabotaging his agenda at every turn, in an effort to settle scores with the Republicans.

So, now, we have the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster, and the President is being vilified, taken to task for decisions he had no hand in, rules he did not formulate, and for a lack of control, control he cannot actually exercise. When people complain that he is not doing enough, they fail to see the whole picture. Anger has a way of clouding judgment, and any person in President Obama's position would no doubt be tarred-and-feathered the same way. To expect any one person, no matter who they are, to be able to instantly and effectively take command of a situation on this scale, and to see to every detail, is ludicrous. To hold a man to account because he cannot do it, ridiculous. Even when men went to the Moon, it took hundreds of thousands of people to get them there, and the President was not one of them, in as much as President Kennedy set the ball in motion.

While the President is the nominal head of the nation, he cannot undertake everything himself. He must work in conjunction with the other branches of government, and must rely on the skills of those appointed to roles within his administration, as well as the civil servants who serve the country no matter who lives in the White House. It goes even further, for at the heart of our nation, are we, the people, those who make this nation run at its core. Together, as one nation, we can solve this problem. Recrimination has no place while the problem exists; there will be time for that later. Right now, we must all put our best efforts into seeing this through. There is something each of us can do, even if it is only a little thing.

Ultimately, the true cause of this disaster is the insatiable desire of our nation for energy from fossil fuel, and even as we struggle to stem the spewing fountain of oil in the Gulf, we must do more to stem the tide of oil required to run our nation. Instead of wasting energy in pointing fingers and placing blame, let us do what it takes to lend a hand, if in no other way than by reducing our consumption of oil and gas. Let us recognize that serious men and women, right on up to our President, are struggling to set this right, in conditions that make our ordinary travails seem trivial. History will tell us how and why, but it is up to us to ensure that this never happens again.

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