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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 in Politics Law, & Economics • Permalink


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