A Crisis of Competence
Nearly 31 years ago, on July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter told the American people from the Oval Office: "Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny." Last night the American people heard almost the exact same speech from President Barack Obama: "I've returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we're waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens…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. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America's innovation and seize control of our own destiny."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs billed the speech as an "inflection point," where the President's initial response would be replaced by more decisive action. But this is now day 57. Where has the decisive action been up to this point? The Obama administration has not been working in a coordinated fashion. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Interior, the Department of Homeland Security, and the White House, as well as the Coast Guard, have been putting out confusing and contradictory statements since the disaster began.
Federal regulatory red tape has gotten in the way of the cleanup, including: 1) missed opportunities to burn off more of the oil because of overblown air pollution concerns; 2) holdups in the use of dispersants; 3) permit delays in allowing the state of Louisiana to create artificial barriers against the encroaching oil slick; 4) failure to waive regulatory prohibitions against foreign assistance; and 5) failure to approve barges and booms in time to block oil from reaching Alabama's Magnolia River.
Instead of providing leadership and properly coordinating the response, the Obama administration has chosen to shift blame and politicize the disaster, including: 1) "not-at-all veiled shot[s] at the Bush Administration" for the state of the Minerals and Management Service; 2) vague threats of criminal prosecution from Attorney General Eric Holder; 3) a moratorium on offshore oil drilling which could kill 120,000 jobs in the Gulf alone; and 4) pushing caps on carbon dioxide emissions which have no hope of cleaning up a single drop of oil spilled.
The President spoke of "political courage and candor" last night, yet both were missing from his speech. The President asserted: "Time and again, the path forward has been blocked…by oil industry lobbyists." But the reality is that BP lobbyists have been pushing for the President's energy agenda from the beginning. The President claimed: "Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America." But the reality is that China will account for nearly 45% of oil demand growth in the next five years, receives 70% of its energy from coal already, and is projected to nearly triple coal capacity by 2030.
In his 1979 "malaise" speech, President Carter told the American people: "I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy…The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence." Carter was wrong. America was not suffering from a crisis of confidence. As the election of President Ronald Reagan would show the next year, it was the Carter administration that was suffering…from a crisis of leadership. Today, our country is in crisis again. The Obama administration's constant blame shifting, politicization, and lack of organization demonstrate a crisis of competence. To restore America's faith, the White House should drop irrelevant policy priorities, refrain from making the economic damage worse, end unnecessary bureaucratic delays, and restructure the response and recovery efforts. As MSNBC's Keith Olbermann said following the address: "It was a great speech if you've been on another planet for the last 57 days."
Reprinted with permission from The Heritage Foundation
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