Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Three Things I’m Not Pissed About

I decided to combine these things into one post.  There are three stories that are running through the punditsphere that seem to have everyone in a tizzy. My take is that they range from silly to pointless to semi-serious.

The Silly: Obama and the Gulf

First, the BP oil spill.  I’m more than willing to be angry at the oil company that appeared to be careless and the regulators that, as I blogged earlier, were more interested in smoking meth than watching what BP was doing. Those are legitimate regions of complaint. But the calls for Obama to “do something” about the ongoing spill puzzle me.

I’m not sure what exactly people expect the President to be doing.  If I have an oil well gushing filth into the ocean, I want an engineer, not a fucking politician. Unless Obama is planning to plug the hole up with his ego, he needs to stay away.  Moreover, my view is one I would expect to be the default among conservatives. As Larison points out:

If a President does not actively “take charge” and is not seen as “doing something,” he is ridiculed as weak and ineffective, when according to any vision of a less activist, less interventionist, less intrusive government the President would not involve himself closely in most events similar to this oil spill. It is a bit more absurd in the conservatives’ case. They are horrified by the tyranny of the individual mandate, but most otherwise seem content to demand the firm smack of a strong executive and the protections of an omnicompetent managerial state. Having mocked Obama’s more enthusiastic supporters for wanting him to be a savior of sorts, some Republicans seem genuinely annoyed that he has not been able to work miracles.

The oil spill is being described as “Obama’s Katrina”. Perhaps. But Katrina was the sort of thing government is supposed to take care of. In fact, a New Orleans hurricane was one of three disaster scenarios that FEMA has specifically studied. The main response needed was moving people and supplies into place.  However fair of unfair the criticism was of Bush, he was at least being criticized for something that was his responsibility. I don’t see that similar logic applies here. What I see is people who think Bush was unfairly criticized for Katrina trying to “get even” by blaming Obama for the oil spill.

If the investigation shows that the Obama DOI was lax in their regulation or that he didn’t move to clean up the supremely corrupt MMS, then we can call for Obama’s scalp. If he drags his heels on the coming clean-up, we can shout down the mountains. Until then, let’s be grateful he’s not standing in a dinghy, commanding the oil to go back into the Earth.

The Pointless: McGinness and Palin

The second outrageous outrage of the week is something that’s so political insidy, I feel like punching myself for even mentioning it. Joe McGinniss is writing a book about Sarah Palin that is likely to be unflattering to say the least. He’s now rented the house next door to the Palins. The Right is responding with outrage and making dark implications about his intentions toward Palin’s kids. America’s Leading Amateur Obstetrician—Sullivan—is trying to make Palin the villain here for posting a pciture of McGinniss on Facebook.

I’m actually sort of with Palin on this one. McGinniss gave an interview with Weigel where he tries to play this off, but he comes across as self-serving and rationalizing. He sounds like the criminals I used to hear on jury duty, trying to make everything they did seem innocent and routine. There were many places he could have rented in Alaska.  Why take the home next door if not to annoy her?

Moreover, McGinniss has a history. He famously cozied up to Jeffrey MacDonald to get his story even after he became convinced that MacDonald had brutally murdered his wife and kids. A lawsuit resulted, with a hung jury. When you manage to make a jury equally sympathetic to you and a triple murderer, you’ve pretty much crossed the line into the part of the map that reads, “Here There Be Assholes”.

This just crosses me as more assholeishness. Thanks a lot, Joe. You’ve made me sympathize with Sarah Palin.

The Semi-Serious: Sestak

The final outrage of the week is the implication that Obama may have offered a position to Joe Sestak to keep him from challenging Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary. This is legitimate, as such an offer would be illegal. Morrissey has a run-down.  The short version is that the White House asked Bill Clinton to talk to Sestak to see what his intentions were but never actually offered anything.

Several points to make here.  First, the President’s defenders are right that no laws appear to have been broken. They’re also right that this sort of thing is very common. Earl Warren turned the 1952 convention into a Supreme Court seat, for example.

However, the President’s critics have a point here, too. Most of the wheeling and dealing happens at conventions, when delegates are swapped for theoretical vice presidencies and cabinet positions. They do not involve sitting Presidents offering positions. Moreover, weren’t we supposed to be getting all this change and stuff? The most ethical administration ever and all that?

Let me stray afield a bit. In Judaism, there are laws known as Gezeirah. These are laws instituted by Rabbis that go beyond Biblical prohibitions. They idea is to build “a fence around the law” to keep people from accidentally violating the law. The classic example is the Kosher Laws against mixing milk and meat. The Biblical injunction is to not boil a kid in its mothers milk. But by banning all milk mixed with meat, you insure that the law will not be approached, let alone violated.

A truly ethical administration would follow something similar—build a fence around the law so that they can be sure of not violating it.  They would not be playing lawyer word-parsing games to justify their actions. I don’t think the Administration violated the law. But I do think they were in the neighborhood, pricing the houses.  That’s fine for a standard politician. It’s not really acceptable for someone who claims to be a breath of fresh air.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 05/29/10 at 06:25 PM (Discuss this in the forums)


Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 05/29/10 at 08:09 PM from United States

My main beef with Obama is his tendency to keep blaming Bush for the oil spill-while making it look like he’s more interested in playing golf and staging photo-ops. Also the fact that he was just as much in bed with BP as Dick Cheney was with his oil industry buddies.

Palin’s situation just reflects the creepy nature of voyeuristic journalism in general, and it will probably make Andrew Sullivan giddy at the prospect of “More Odd Lies”.

The Sestak thing may not quite rise to the level of Obama’s watergate, no matter how much Darrel Issa might want it, but it does seem to go right to the edge of the line without technically crossing it (there’s a reason most politicians are also lawyers).

This looks to be a long, slow summer of simmering semi-phony outrage. But hey, absent North Korea starting a war, there has to be something to blog about!

Posted by Hal_10000 on 05/29/10 at 08:33 PM from United States

Yeah, the “it’s Bush’s fault” line is wearing a bit thin.  This is rapidly becoming the story of the Boy Who Cried Bush.

Posted by on 05/30/10 at 09:57 AM from United States

Although the deep sea gusher is a new frontier so to speak, the problem of oil coming ashore isn’t. I’m disappointed that more wasn’t done to prevent the damage to the coastline. They had weeks to prepare for this and it would seem somebody dropped the ball. I think it would have been more practical to spend money to prevent or lessen the impact than to spend much more money trying to clean up afterward.

The Sarah Palin thing is just strange. I have never understood the obsession.

The issue with Sestak might be a problem but I’ll have to wait for more information. A witch hunt would be really bad PR for the GOP. However, If something unsavory or illegal did happen I want to know about it.

Posted by on 05/30/10 at 04:26 PM from United States

The Oil Spill:  I don’t think that this issue is silly, nor do I think it is inappropriate to expect a response from the Federal Government on the matter.  While I am a Libertarian and all for a limited Federal Government, I also have to look at the appropriate role of our federal government.  In this case, the accident took place about 52 miles off of the coast of Louisiana - I think this is actually in international waters (I am not certain of this, so someone can correct me on this point if I am incorrect).  This would make the spill an international incident.  As the closest sovereign state, I would assume that our country would take the lead.  When dealing with international incidents, the appropriate lead responding entity would be our federal government.  Considering this also substantially affects a number of individual states, I would expect those states to also mobilize resources to deal with the problem, but I would think that the Federal government would take the lead role - even amongst those entities.

I know that most of the expertise in this area is already employed by BP, but I would also think that the Federal Government could act as the lead coordinator of efforts to stop the flow and clean up the oil - even going so far as to contact competitors of BP and see if they can lend their experts as well.  Also making military assets available for assistance would go a long way as well. 

So far, all we have seen is the Feds standing on the sideline, yelling at BP for them to fix it.  BTW, isn’t relying on BP (a private entity) to fix the problem kind of an odd response for those that believe in big government’s ability to fix any problem from poverty and drug use to changing global temperatures?

Posted by on 05/30/10 at 04:31 PM from United States

As for Palin - I think some people need to get over their obsession with her.  We get it already, she was an incredibly poor choice for John McCain’s running mate.  The election is over, let it go.

As for Sestak - while I agree that it is serious, I don’t think it is worthy of wasting time on, simply because there are so many ways for Obama to get out of any trouble that might come from it.  I mean the House is controlled by the Dems - there is NO WAY they would bring impeachment proceedings - not even if there was a full signed and notarized confession from Obama, read aloud during a press conference simulcast on every channel throughout the country.  Much less would we even get close to the required number of Senators to find him guilty even if the House, by some miracle, were to actually impeach him

Posted by on 05/30/10 at 04:48 PM from United States

I mean the House is controlled by the Dems - there is NO WAY they would bring impeachment proceedings

The dems should do an investigation now when they have a huge majority.  Come November they might not-even if they retain the majority it will be much smaller.  An “oh shit yeah this was bad” finding now would mean a slap on the wrist.  The same thing in 2011 might mean an impeachment vote. 

Despite Hal’s legal analysis above, there is still some question about whether or not an unpaid position violates federal law.  It also doesn’t really make sense-offer a sitting Congressman an advisory board position that he can’t accept without resigning from Congress?  If they really thought that was a good deal then they are complete idiots.  The story is just a little too convenient. 

There should be an open investigation of what happened.  The most open administration in history (along with the most ethical House leadership) should not have a problem with that right?

Posted by The Contrarian on 05/30/10 at 05:49 PM from United States

Strongly disagree with you on points one and three Hal.

Why did BP hesitate to try to burn off the oil in the early stages of the leak? Why was there no coordinated effort to prevent coastal damage when we had over a month to prepare? These and numerous other mistakes are failures of government. True, the disaster itself is not Obama’s fault, and BP should take the lion’s share of the blame, but the DOI, EPA, and other agencies are empowered to take actions to mitigate the damages. They were woefully disorganized and had Bush responded similarly, he would rightly have been criticized.

The Sestak affair too is no laughing matter. I think there is a line between dirty politics as usual and violating federal statutes. The law is pretty clear about direct and indirect offers. If Clinton was dispatched to dangle something before Sestak to get him out of the race, then you have, if not a crime, a serious ethical lapse on the part of the White House worthy of investigation and official censure. These bastards should not be able to just get away with it.

I take for granted that Obama is corrupt. I never in a million years expected his administration to be one tenth as honest and transparent as he promised. Nevertheless, the White House trying to undermine the democratic process and manipulate elections through bribery is something that should give us all pause. A society so mired in cynicism that it writes off one branch of government attempting to control another through felonious backroom deals is a society in decline.

Posted by on 05/31/10 at 12:04 AM from Germany

I think the fan club is starting to realize that once the teleprompter is off Obama isn’t the slightest bit a president.  He strikes me as divorced from the reality of what Americans want/are because he’s pursuing an agenda of what he thinks America should be (per Bill Ayers), while at the same time expecting the office of President to be him telling everyone what to do without any backtalk.  He’s a lot like Nixon - it’s not illegal when HE does it.

His unscripted statements when his notoriously thin skin gets pricked reveal a lot about how he truly thinks.  In the ways that truly matter, Obama isn’t an American - his ideals are truly foreign to this country.

Posted by on 05/31/10 at 10:23 AM from United States

On the Oil:

To me, the great irony is that BP was simply drilling where the environmentalists wanted them to drill.  Not near shore in shallow water.  And certainly not in some remote outpost in Alaska, where this thing would have been over in less than a week.  Nope, deep water in the Gulf.  Where it’s damn near impossible to plug a leak, and out far enough where the oil is sure to contaminate the entire freaking coast.

On Sestak:

First, the President’s defenders are right that no laws appear to have been broken

I do not feel compelled towards such a charitable conclusion.  Perhaps it was “only” a misdemeanor, but last I checked, that’s still a crime.  And it also seems to follow a pattern, at least if you believe the accusations in Colorado re: Romanoff. 

That’s fine for a standard politician. It’s not really acceptable for someone who claims to be a breath of fresh air.

Anyone who believed that crap should have given up when tax cheats and lobbyists were brought on board to this “ethical administration that won’t hire ex-lobbyists.”

Posted by on 05/31/10 at 10:24 AM from United States

SO’s Nixon reference is apt.  The smart thing to do now is to get someone independent to investigate now.  The cover up, such as it is, is only making things worse and damaging Obama politically. 

RE the spill vs Katrina: Katrina happened in New Orleans where there are state and local governments that are supposed to be the first people to respond to disasters.  Remember the fleet of parked school buses?  For the Gulf Spill the federal government is the only government with any possible jurisdiction over the spill site.  In areas where state government can help, the government has been standing in the way-Jindal’s request for federal permission to construct barriers has been on hold for weeks.  Obama, that hands on, in charge from day one guy, needed to just cut through the bullshit and say yes.

Posted by AlexinCT on 06/03/10 at 09:51 AM from United States

First, the President’s defenders are right that no laws appear to have been broken

Really? What about the other fellow - Romanoff - which has e-mails with job offers? There is a patern here. And again, these people defending Obama would be demanding Bush’s blood if it had been his doing.

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