Political grandstanding is so fun that Republican Senators tend not to realize what they are saying. South Dakota's Republican Senator John Thune is "blasting" and "slamming" President Barack Obama for not doing more to cap BP's Deepwater Horizon oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.
"The president ought to be pulling together the very best minds out there," the South Dakota Republican said. "He could be bringing people together and figuring out which are the best technologies, bringing in all the oil companies in to discuss this, all the scientists, all the people who have expertise in this area" [Ledyard King, "Thune Blasts Obama Response to Gulf Oil Leak," that Sioux Falls paper, 2010.05.27].
Compare the above comments to the pablum Senator Thune threw to the National Rifle Association a fortnight ago:
Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, told the crowd there are two competing visions about the future of the country.
"One consists of more government and less freedom, and one consists of less government and more freedom," he said. "And right now, unfortunately, the prevailing vision in Washington D.C. is that of government. More and more government" ["Speakers at NRA convention target Washington, midterms," CNN.com, 2010.05.14]
Does Senator Thune really want President Obama to nationalize the BP cleanup effort? Should Uncle Sam simply dissolve BP and take possession of all of its equipment? We'd have to: we can't exactly load a bunch of Army Corps of Engineers bulldozers and Madison's 211th National Guard company on a barge, ship them out of New Orleans, and toss them in the ocean to fix the problem. The President and his advisors have already assessed the expertise and equipment needed to fix this problem... and they've recognized that BP has it.
Even if we took the Russians' advice and nuked the broken wellhead, we'd probably still have to use equipment from BP or other industry players to drill into the sea floor and properly place the warhead.
My conservative friends tend to criticize the Obama Administration for Rahm Emanuel's oft-cited First Rule of Politics, "Never let a crisis go to waste." Those critics forget to read the rest of the quote: "They are opportunities to do big things."
Senator Thune is operating by the first half of Rahm's Rule, but I don't think trying to use this crisis as an opportunity to score political points against the man he might try to beat in 2012 counts as a "big thing." President Obama is willing to use this crisis as part of the argument to make big things like energy security legislation happen. The President is also moving ahead with preventive measures like extending a moratorium on deepwater exploration, a sensible, cautious step Thune explicitly rejects in the King article.
Government has its proper roles. What I find amusing is that Senator Thune is unwilling or unable to coherently explain those roles. He can apparently only lurch from shouting base-pleasing anti-government platitudes to crying for government actions when it suits his political agenda. Ugh.