Saturday, June 5, 2010

BP, President Obama, and the oil spill disaster blues

The weeks grind on and the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico continues to emerge as one of the largest catastrophes in recent memory.

The events of the last month or so have really been unbelievable. The credibility of BP will begin rivaling Enron if substantially better news about the situation does not emerge soon.

Comparing BP to Enron may be a stretch, but they are both examples of corporate incompetence that will impact our nation for years to come. Enron ripped people off for financial gain. In a sense, BP has as well because the company clearly overreached in its bid for bigger profits.

BP rolled the dice by drilling for oil without an acceptable emergency response plan, and now the company may never recover from a financial and public relations perspective.

I have given a lot of thought regarding what word best describes BP, and the one that fits best is 'stupid.' I know that is not a fancy word, but my goodness, BP has to be the stupidest corporation on the planet.

What in God's name was BP thinking? The company chose to push the envelope when drilling while crossing its fingers that a worst case scenario would never take place.

Like an acrobat who tries to thrill a crowd without a net, BP was hoping that the law of averages would not catch up with it. After all, what were the chances that there would be an explosion killing many while producing an oil spill roughly the size of South Carolina?

It is easy to take those risks when the person making those decisions is tucked away in an office building far away from the workers who have to deal with the peril. I do not know if any of these decisions were criminal, but if they were, it is another example of how the worst crimes in our society are often committed by people who wear suits and ties to work every day.

Of course, there has been plenty of political fallout from this. President Obama has been roasted for the federal government's perceived slow response to this situation. The howls from Louisiana have been long and loud.

When a Democratic die hard like James Carville publicly criticizes the president, it shows that politically loyalty can only be pushed so far. I have always found Carville to be an odd but fascinating fellow, and I commend him for speaking his mind.

As for Obama, it is hard to explain why he chose to approach the situation as he did. True, federal agencies were providing assistance early on and letting BP take the lead in fixing the well was probably the right decision.

However, Obama badly bungled this from a public relations standpoint. This is a misstep for a man whose strength is communicating with people. Days dragged into weeks before he made any meaty statements about the situation.

By that time, he was coming across as passive and ineffective when it came to his leadership. For critics looking for any opportunity to pounce on him, Obama gave them plenty of ammunition.

The criticism of him hit a point of critical mass when people began comparing his handling of the situation to the way the Bush administration handled Hurricane Katrina.

As much as the left wing hated Bush, these comparisons had to have stung.

These problems will not go away anytime soon. The mid-term elections are approaching, and Democrats were already beginning to sweat regarding their ability to maintain firm majorities in the House and Senate.

This disaster may have given Republicans a gift that may keep giving until November.

(Note: The photo with this posting was taken by the Associated Press.)

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