Why Are We Angry?

The New York Times editorial board captures the main question that I have which speaks to why I and many others are upset with the response to the BP spill by both the administration and BP.

Fifty-six days into the spill and it is not clear who is responsible — BP, federal, state or local authorities — for the most basic decisions, like when to deploy booms to protect sensitive wetlands. It’s not even clear how much oil is pouring out of the ruptured well. On Tuesday, a government panel raised the estimate to as much as 60,000 barrels a day.

These are really fundamental questions, but the President hasn’t been able to adequately answer them.

Moreover, as Jason Linkins at Huffington Post points out, the much-heralded speech last night didn’t attempt to change our understanding of how the administration is responding nor what we can expect moving forward. It just reiterated things that Obama clearly wants to have done, with no vision for the plan that will realize them. Linkins writes:

I mean, don’t get me wrong. Obama really, really wants to stop the oil spill. And he really, really wants to hold BP accountable for the damage they’ve done. And he really, really wants the Gulf Coast to come through this hardship and he really, really wants to wean us from our dependency on foreign oil, and oil in general. But “really, really wants” is not a plan, and only the bitterest and most brain-dead of political opponents would have presumed, going into tonight, that Obama had not yet properly sentimentalized his opinions on any of those matters.

I guess, at the bottom, I don’t understand what the point of the Oval Office address was. The small policy and punitive steps were already announced in days prior to the speech. Only the most cynical opponents and trite journalists think an even more emotional response actually means something. And in the end, the timing of a speech that lacked groundbreaking action of forceful clarity strikes me solely as being driven by goals of changing perceptions than goals of changing reality.

I don’t begrudge the President for using the power of the office to further his agenda and his positioning, regardless of what that it is. Elections have consequences and he’s entitled to make sure the public knows what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. But I just don’t think this speech succeeded in speaking to the real questions of who is in charge, what does that mean, how are resources being marshaled to stop the leak and how are resources being deployed to contain and clean up oil that is out already.  As a result, people will continue to be angry and, at least in my case, fundamentally dissatisfied by the lack of clarity as to who is in charge and what that means.

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