You can sense a sort of fatigue beginning to set in with respect to the oil spill in the Gulf. Like the war in Afghanistan, we’re tired of hearing about it, even though we may feel vaguely ashamed for feeling that way. As a nation, we have many admirable qualities, but a long attention span is not one of them. We’d like our wars and natural disasters to be resolved in the time it takes to Twitter about them.
The Gulf oil spill has actually had a longer shelf-life than I would have expected. I think that’s because it’s closer to home than Afghanistan. Let’s face it…unless you have a friend or family member in the military, either serving in the war or with the potential to have to do so, Afghanistan is out-of-sight, out-of-mind. When the…I refuse to call it a war…invasion of Iraq was at its height, I remember one day I was standing in the grocery store and it just hit me how we were all going about our business as usual. There is no rationing, no “war effort”. World War II, this ain’t.
The Gulf oil spill, however, is like a sound wave. Very loud at the source, and gradually lessening in volume as it spreads. For the people who live on the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Florida, it’s still screaming like an air raid siren. But it’s still resonating in the rest of the country. I’d be interested to know the percentage of the U.S. population that has visited Florida at least once in their lives. The damage to the seafood industry is a huge factor, but not as much as damage to the beaches. I can guarantee you that most people in Nebraska don’t ask themselves where that shrimp came from. As they say, perception is everything.
But disaster fatigue is not really what this post is about. I’ve got some of it. I’m like Tony Hayward…I’d like my life back. Which brings me to my first Enough Already! comment, which are in no particular order of importance. Enough about that statement from Hayward. Of course he’d like his life back, and so would you. That doesn’t make him Satan. On the news last night, they showed a party in Louisiana, on Grand Isle I think, where people were laughing and drinking and dancing to Cajun music, in other words, partying as only people from Louisiana can do. They interviewed one woman who said, “Sure, we’re in a mess, but sometimes…you just gotta have a break”. On that note, enough about Hayward attending and possibly participating in a regatta this weekend. Would we have more respect for him if he just went ahead and committed public harakiri?
Enough already! about the Swedish chairman of the board of BP saying they care about the “small people”. When I heard him say it, I groaned out loud, because I knew what was coming. The endless outrage, the snarky cartoons. Hello, he’s Swedish. It isn’t a big stretch to imagine that what he meant was “the average person”. Even if you can speak another language well, idioms and slang are hard to master.
Finally, a big, giant, capitalized Enough Already! with comparisons to Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was a natural disaster; the Gulf oil spill is a manmade one. The only possible response to Katrina was government intervention. After all, you can’t ask God for $2o million in escrow.
Having said that, the President is failing no less than the last one did. The failures occurred both before and after the disaster. FEMA in the last case, the MMS in this one. And not throwing everything you have at it, in both. The mistake in this case is compounded by allowing BP to manage the response. They should have been confined to paying for it. From what I read, “Unified Command” is anything but. Last week, Paul Flemming, my favorite Florida political writer, wrote “Give us Craig Fugate”. Fugate is the current head of FEMA and the former director of Emergency Management for the state of Florida, who has a proven record.
As for the President’s response, as usual, Frank Rich of the New York Times illuminates the broader picture in today’s op-ed. The President’s response must be bolder, since as Rich says, the Tea Party is at the barricades. On the other hand, Joe Barton made it clear that if they were in charge, the less-government crowd would hand over everything to the likes of BP. The best quote: after Barton’s apology to BP, “the G.O.P. establishment had to shut him down because he was revealing the party’s true loyalties, not because it disagreed with him”.
I’m hoping that Barton’s apology dealt a fatal blow to the no-government crowd, but it won’t work unless government actually Does Something. Enough waiting, already!