Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Oil Spill and the Republicans

In times of national crisis, Americans look to the President to lead -- and to deliver. That's why President Obama was absolutely correct to make it crystal clear that he is personally responsible to deal with the oil spill crisis -- and has told his Administration to spare no effort to stop the leak, oversee the cleanup, and assure that BP completely compensates the massive number of victims.

Increasingly sharp criticism has been leveled at the President because BP has so far been unable to stop the leak. The problem, of course, is that most of the critics have few suggestions about what the Administration might do that it isn't doing.

And it is down right remarkable that the critics, include Republicans like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who less that two years ago were joining Republican oil industry "expert" Sarah Palin in the juvenile Republican convention chant "Drill Baby Drill!"

"Drill Baby Drill!" was not just intended to promote more offshore oil drilling. It was intended to mock Democratic concerns for the environmental impact of offshore drilling. It was intended to dismiss their opposition to drilling as stupid, "tree-hugging," anti-growth, "elite" concerns. It was intended to mock those who feared that offshore drilling would despoil our natural resources. It was intended to label them -- in the words of the late Republican Vice-President Spiro Agnew -- as "effete, nattering nabobs of negativism" -- part of the "chablis and brie" set that is completely disconnected from the lives of ordinary Americans who drink beer, work hard and get their hands dirty producing the products and the food we need in our everyday lives.

Of course things haven't turned out that way. The victims of the BP oil disaster are the shrimpers and the oystermen -- the people who own the mom and pop restaurants and coffee shops -- the folks who drive their pickup trucks to a job in the tourist industry along the Mississippi coast. The real victims are the fathers who want to take their sons hunting in the Louisiana wetlands the way their father took them.

And the real beneficiaries of the Bush-Cheney-Republican energy policy have not been ordinary Americans -- they are the giant oil companies that have become economic behemoths by encouraging the world's addiction to oil and preventing the development of energy alternatives that would end our dependence.

The fact is that while Big Oil has been polluting the Gulf with what now appears to be 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil -- or more -- each day since April, it has been polluting our politics with millions of dollars in campaign contributions for decades.

In the last three and a half years, the oil industry has given over $35 million dollars to the Republicans. Big Oil paid for "drill baby drill" just as surely as United Airlines paid for the naming rights of the United Center in Chicago.


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