“Drill baby, drill” became the Republicans’ 2008 presidential campaign motto. Now one has to wonder if it will be “drill baby drill ‘til it spills baby spills.”
The drill advocates are as silent as a swamp cricket laced in raw crude. They simply did not have much to say on the Sunday morning political yak shows about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico other than to blame President Obama.
Since the catastrophic British Petroleum oil rig explosion on April 20, which killed eleven men, the Coast Guard has estimated nearly 5,000 barrels of oil a day has been spewing into the water. By April 30, there were reports the slick had reached the Louisiana shore, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has since halted all fishing from the Louisiana to the Florida coasts. It is believed this will devastate the region’s seafood industry.
At 5,000 barrels a day, which even government officials say could be low estimates, it is set to surpass the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, making it likely to be the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history. Officials estimate it could take BP up to several months to plug the broken well, which is located nearly a mile underwater.
In a political environment as raucous as today’s, it was simply a matter of time before the right wing pinned this on the president. If you listen to their talking points, you would think this is President Obama’s Katrina. Americans probably remember Hurricane Katrina from seeing citizens dying in the streets and an entire major American city drowning, all while then-President George W. Bush was ensuring us Michael Brown, or “Brownie” as he became known, was doing “a heckuva job.”
This is not President Obama’s Katrina. Unfortunately, many of the mainstream media types have adopted that right wing talking point and have begun regurgitating that officials have been questioning the administration’s response to the oil spill. What they don’t say is those “officials” are other right wingers and Republicans taking cues from Rush Limbaugh, who originally coined the Obama’s Katrina term on his Friday radio show.
From broadcast to broadcast on Sunday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar had to defend against the statement: “Some are saying this is President Obama’s Katrina.”
But alas, isn’t this why the right wing noise machine plays so well? After all, is it not the Republican Party that always advocates stripping away those burdensome, pesky government regulations? We know the ones, somewhat like the ones European countries require oil rigs to implement to prevent disasters such as the one heading to the Gulf States. Yes, the regulations that supposedly stifle business, until something like this happens and we see they were much needed.
Republicans and their right wing organ players are masters at flipping scripts. Let’s examine some well-known conservatives who are directly impacted with the Gulf Coast spill.
Republican Governor Bobby Jindal became the up-and-coming conservative until he flopped out on national television attempting a response to the president’s early 2009 economic stimulus speech. Governor Jindal then doubled down and remarked he would refuse any federal stimulus money. But once the money became available it was a different story, and the governor fell in the handout line like everyone else. After all, Louisiana has largely avoided the economic belt tightening other states have endured thanks to federal funds provided since Katrina.
Then there’s Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi who in his 2006 State of the State address in response to Hurricane Katrina said, “We didn’t whine to the federal government…[like Governor Blanco did], we just laced up our britches and got to work.”
And there’s the whole slew of conservative senators and other politicos lining the Gulf Coast states who also argue against any investment in alternative fuels. Even Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), whose labor with Senators Kerry and Lieberman finally led to a long-awaited energy bill, walked away from his own legislation to toe the conservative line and fight anything the president proposes.
It is important to note that besides demanding their “fair share” of federal funding, these conservative states, or ones that elect conservative politicians at least, are known as what are called welfare states. That means for every dollar states like Michigan and Ohio send to D.C., they only receive around 84 cents back because states like Mississippi and Louisiana receive $1.20 for every one sent to D.C. Of course, that does not mean the anti-government, anti-regulation rhetoric has to stop.
For these reasons, it is difficult for me to stomach the fact President Obama went to Louisiana Sunday and committed every resource it would take to remedy the spill. I wanted to suggest he leave Governor Barbour a bucket and a few sponges and tell him to “lace up your britches again, Halley, you got some cleaning to do.”
Fortunately, the president’s demeanor is calmer than mine. Perhaps I am a bit upset, too, that next time I visit family in Louisiana I might have trouble finding a soft-shelled crab or oysters.
Why weren’t regulations in place to stop such a disaster? Is oil drilling off our delicate coastlines really the answer to our energy needs? More importantly, will the oil slick’s sludge finally clear the vision of the drill baby drill crowd or will politics continue to cloud their judgment?