Sunday, May 02, 2010

Responding To A Disaster

No word yet on whether the oil spill of a British Petroleum rig in the Gulf of Mexico will spur greater regulation amidst Washington’s “deregulate, baby, deregulate” environment. Still, the differing response of President Barack Obama and 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee and 2012 presidential hopeful Sarah Palin is telling.

Politico reports

The administration recently announced that it would open new coastal areas to oil exploration, including regions off Virginia’s coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, ending a long moratorium on new drilling.

But Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said Friday there will be no new domestic offshore oil drilling pending a review of the rig disaster and massive oil spill along the Gulf Coast.

Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Axelrod said “no additional [offshore] drilling has been authorized, and none will until we find out what happened and whether there was something unique and preventable here. ... No domestic drilling in new areas is going to go forward until there is an adequate review of what's happened here and of what is being proposed elsewhere."

Obama said he asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to conduct a "thorough review" and report back in 30 days to determine "what if any additional precautions and technologies should be required to prevent accidents like this from happening again." He said he’s also dispatched teams to the Gulf to inspect all deepwater rigs.

Admittedly, that is not quite an admission by the President that he was wrong when he reversed Administration policy on March 30 and announced (limited) off-shore oil drilling. But at did reflect understanding that policy must be continually re-assessed in light of shifting reality.

Not so one of the GOP’s leading spokesmen/women, who quit the job she was elected to do in Alaska. Palin wrote on her Facebook page

All responsible energy development must be accompanied by strict oversight, but even with the strictest oversight in the world, accidents still happen. No human endeavor is ever without risk – whether it’s sending a man to the moon or extracting the necessary resources to fuel our civilization. I repeat the slogan “drill here, drill now” not out of naiveté or disregard for the tragic consequences of oil spills – my family and my state and I know firsthand those consequences. How could I still believe in drilling America’s domestic supply of energy after having seen the devastation of the Exxon-Valdez spill? I continue to believe in it because increased domestic oil production will make us a more secure, prosperous, and peaceful nation.

Translation: our campaign slogan “drill, baby, drill” is still operative. Never a question. Never a doubt. Wouldn’’t let reality get in the way of a catchy phrase now, would we?

Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison. At times seeming to lack adherence to principle, President Obama is a politician almost uniquely flexible and cognizant of the limits of his own knowledge and judgement. He may chart a shifting, middle-of-the-road course, but it’s one that marks him as pragmatic, even when the policy course may have been politically motivated (as in the case of the March drilling statement, intended to get Lindsay Graham back on board with climate change legislation.)

That would be in sharp contrast not only to Sarah Palin but to most major Republican politicians of today- sometimes wrong, but never in doubt. The GOP way has the advantage of what sometimes is interpreted as ideological consistency- and certainly is one uniform over time. Unfortunately, it resulted in the Iraq War, a stubborn resistance to regulation of industry, and a petulant defiance to reform what several of them (with toes firmly crossed) referred to as “best health care system in the world.”

The Obama way stands in stark contrast to that of Bush 43, but is consistent with that generally pursued by Presidents Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton. Hopefully, the outcome will be far more satisfying than the one which came out of the last administration.

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