The announcer on NPR says President Barack Obama will use his first Oval Office address tonight to "challenge BP to do more" to clean up its Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Challenge them? Is this a self-help class? What happened to kick their asses?
Whenever the President makes an Oval Office address, I keep hoping he will offer some historic announcement, some unprecedented initiative. Instead, we seem likely to get "challenges" and compromises and a continuation of the status quo. Why, in the face of the biggest point-source ecological disaster in a decade, can the President not justify saying, "You want your socialism? I got your socialism right here."
Don't challenge BP: put it into receivership. Annul their corporate charter, mandate they spend every remaining asset in cleaning up their mess and compensating those harmed by their negligence, then liquidate the company. Don't wait for BP to send another tanker from the North Sea to collect oil. Invite every other oil company to send its tankers to the spill site, line up at the spigot, and haul away all the recovered oil they can carry, for free.
Instead I hear President Obama tell the press in Mississippi that the best thing we can do to help folks on the Gulf Coast is "enjoy the hospitality." Republican Governor Haley Barbour, who says we have more to fear from the fear of oil than oil itself, nods vigorously. That sounds an awful lot like President Bush's post-9/11 exhortation that the proper patriotic response to terrorism is to buy plane tickets and "get down to Disney World."
The standard narrative among my conservative neighbors is that President Barack Obama is a raging radical who is changing everything about the America we love. The folks along the Gulf Coast could stand to see some more radical change. Instead, we get a Democrat who is sounding more like the Republican he succeeded.
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