- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2010


President Obama has become a national disgrace. It is clear from his nearly 18 months in office that he is unable to perform effectively as the country’s chief executive. In short, he is a colossal failure.

Take his handling of the BP oil spill. He has badly botched the government’s response to the greatest environmental catastrophe in U.S. history. The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was not his fault; neither are the millions of barrels of crude gushing from the ocean’s floor, devastating the Gulf Coast’s shorelines and precious ecosystem.

What is his fault, however, is the inability to contain and clean up the spill. He is the president of the United States. His primary duty is to protect our national security - either from murderous terrorists or gazillions of gobs of black sludge decimating the jobs and livelihoods of citizens on the Gulf Coast. Instead of declaring a state of emergency on Day One of the crisis, Mr. Obama dithered. His entire administration sat on their hands.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano waited more than a week before calling the Navy and Coast Guard to get involved. In fact, Ms. Napolitano stunningly admitted she had no idea the Navy possessed equipment that could be used to clean the spill. Mr. Obama’s job is to coordinate interagency cooperation to handle the crisis; it took weeks before Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen was given necessary powers and responsibilities and established a clear chain of command. Mr. Obama initially relied upon BP to do something he should have done: Tackle the spill.

His response was late - and pathetic. Weeks went by before Mr. Obama even visited the Gulf. It is as if Mr. Obama could not be bothered to confront an economic and ecological catastrophe on American shores. He is too busy erecting a progressive utopia. The socialist visionary dislikes the hard tasks of governing. He considers it beneath him. This is for his bureaucratic minions.

Moreover, Mr. Obama has compounded the economic damage in the Gulf. His decision to implement a six-month moratorium on deep-water oil drilling will cost thousands of jobs, drive up the price of domestic energy production and increase our reliance upon foreign oil - especially oil produced in anti-American petro-states such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela. He is not just incompetent but destructive.

Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal rightly said the federal government has refused to take decisive action to curtail the spill - and prevent the black sludge from reaching the coastline. Cutting-edge oil vacuuming equipment has not been fully deployed. Vital, long sand barriers were first not erected, and then constructed haphazardly and late. The full resources of the Navy and Coast Guard have not been mobilized - including importing key oil-containing assets from other countries (like Norway and the Persian Gulf states), which have handled deep-water spills before.

Instead, Mr. Obama has sought to use the BP oil spill to ram through his radical liberal agenda and expand the powers of the regulatory state. He has politicized the spill. He is following 1960s new left theorist Saul Alinksy’s rule of using an incident to advance the destruction of capitalism: permanent crisis in the service of permanent revolution.

Hence, in his televised Oval Office address Tuesday, Mr. Obama reiterated his call for a green New Deal. He is demanding that America end its reliance on fossil fuels and transform into a “clean-energy” economy. He seeks a $160-billion fund to implement a green industrial policy - massive government subsidies to encourage the development of solar power and windmills.

He wants the Senate to pass sweeping cap-and-trade legislation, thereby imposing a national energy tax and mandating American businesses to curb carbon emissions. This would drive up energy costs - especially oil and natural gas - forcing citizens to dramatically scale back consumption. It would undermine America’s standard of living. It also would represent the greatest expansion of state power in U.S. history. The government would directly regiment and control industry. Mr. Obama aims to erect a green nanny state based on central planning and bureaucratic corporatism.

He is waging a frontal assault upon the rule of law and traditional property rights. BP should pay for the full costs of the spill and clean-up operation; it is their mess. BP is also responsible for the vast economic consequences to the region - the loss of fishermen’s jobs and livelihoods, the crippling of the tourism industry and the blow to communities. The oil giant is fully liable and should pay through the nose. This is what courts are for. This is why the legal process is in place. Mr. Obama, however, is proceeding in an unprecedented and illegal manner: He is forcing BP to set aside $20 billion in an escrow account to be administered by an Obama appointee to pay compensation to the victims of the spill. BP has agreed to the fund under immense political pressure.The oil giant has capitulated to the administration’s thuggery.

This is more reminiscent of a Vladimir Putin or a Hugo Chavez than an American president. Mr. Obama is essentially raiding the private assets of a company in order to dispense payments by a crony to serve a political agenda - making him seem like a leader who is in charge. BP - and its shareholders - must be sacrificed on the altar of Mr. Obama’s public relations image. This is not leadership, but creeping authoritarianism.

None of Mr. Obama’s initiatives - the $20 billion escrow account, the oil-drilling ban, the vilification of BP, cap-and-tax, the quixotic calls for windmills and solar-powered cars - will do the one thing that needs to be done and has been repeatedly asked of him: Contain the spill. In other words, Mr. Obama is either unable or unwilling to fulfill the task at hand.

In his speech Tuesday night, Mr. Obama practically admitted that he really doesn’t know what to do about solving the immediate oil spill disaster. Instead, he called Americans to aspire toward some vague green utopian future.

“Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like,” he said. “Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there. We know we’ll get there.”

Americans aren’t interested in sophomoric lectures about clean energy. Our coastlines are being devastated. Our homeland is under attack. Our citizens are in desperate trouble. And the president has utterly failed to meet the challenge. He is out of his depth.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and the president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank. He is the daily host of the “Kuhner Show” on WTNT 570-AM (www.talk570.com) from 5-7 p.m.

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