By John Kusumi
America, I told you so.
It’s a little bit unfair that I should write an article to express my shock and dismay and disappointment in a speech that has not yet been given, and for which I do not have an advance copy. For that reason, the first posting of my headline has [had] a question mark at the end: “Obama’s Missed Opportunity?”
I would like nothing more than to be wrong and premature, rather than prescient, with this article — I would love it if we awaken tomorrow to rave reviews of Obama’s first-ever Oval Office address to the nation. The interval of a few hours will tell, but I am writing this about 12 hours before Obama’s speech.
For any reposts of this article (after the 6/15 speech), I can remove the question mark.
America, I told you so.
In advance of the speech, the pundits yammered about what is on the line, and what Obama should say about the 4/20 BP Oil Disaster which has continued for the 57 days since then.
Obama is now fighting against the perception that he has been disengaged and too deferential to BP in the wake of the 4/20 tragedy. These aren’t just perceptions. On the Gulf Coast, American government gave way to BP government. On the Gulf Coast, there are livelihoods which BP has threatened, and livelihoods which BP has already taken away.
Another perception which is also reality is the failure and fecklessness of both BP and the USG (US government) to stop the flow of oil, which seems a natural first step or prerequisite for cleaning up. “Stop that flow!” is what every American should currently be shouting at the White House. It is known what the people would like to hear: that the flow is stopped; that the cleanup is finished; that physical damage has been mitigated; that Gulf Coast fishermen and tourism operators “get their life back”; that all are compensated for the costs of cleanup and the economic damage of this rude interruption; and, that the rude interruption has in fact, passed.
Obama can’t say these things; he cannot tell us that we are returning to normal. Hence, some dissatisfaction is inevitable no matter what he says in his speech tonight. Nor can he assure us that oil company personnel, education, equipment, and procedures — as well as those of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) — are “fixed.” He can’t say that safety standards have been fixed, and that safe oil drilling can proceed.
Hence, what can he do or say in tonight’s speech that would be fitting?
To be presidential, Obama needs to be in charge of the situation, and he needs to be in charge of the ultimate outcome, upshot, or take away — the narrative that will prevail after his speech.
It has been regrettable that “Who’s in charge?” has lingered as a good question in relation to this disaster. It was highly public and visible in the news that the EPA ordered BP to stop using Corexit, the type of chemical dispersant in use.
And, it was highly public and visible that BP said “no,” wrote back to the EPA with an excuse, and continued applying Corexit dispersant amid the oil gusher.
We learned that BP is wearing the pants, and the U.S. administration is wearing the skirt, in this situation. Tonight, I won’t only be watching Obama’s rhetoric about BP; I will be watching to see, “Does Obama stop the Corexit?” There has been no research or testing about wider and long term impacts of Corexit, but this oil spill will serve as the focus of research for decades to come — in the future, we will know more exactly how toxic Corexit was. History might look back upon this disaster and find that the Corexit was more harmful and injurious that the oil itself.
That’s speculation — we don’t literally know what future history will say about this, but if I were the U.S. President I certainly wouldn’t take the chance that the use of Corexit was among the worst of decisions that were taken in this sorry episode. If it falls as rain — all the way up the East Coast — will it harm crops or the food chain in those locations? This incident is certainly playing Russian Roulette with life as we know it. I’d like to see the U.S. President stop spinning the chamber of that metaphorical gun.
It is also important for the President to assure that the federal government is doing all it can — not only moving resources but making progress, with more progress yet to come. It would be good for him to offer expedited claims processing, direct from Uncle Sam without the need to rely on BP or to proceed with litigation. (Something like this is in the wind; it is reported that he will ask, demand, or require of BP a $20 billion escrow account that will be administered outside of BP.)
But, even if President Obama hits all foregoing nails on the head — if he stops there, it is Obama’s missed opportunity; too little, too late; and, empty words that fail to save Obama’s presidency.
In a just America, it would be the end of big oil. Period.
That should be the ultimate outcome, upshot, or take away — the narrative that becomes the legacy of this event.
Obama is too cautious, too wedded to the status quo, and too much a follower of conventional wisdom. Some pundits have called for a Kennedyesque “moon shot” sort of a speech that presents America with an Apollo-style program that challenges this country to be energy independent in ten years’ time.
Why is it that Brazil can do it, but we can’t? Why should Brazil be the smart country — while we give evidence of being the country which deserves a dunce cap?
Note that an Apollo-style program to get off of oil has nothing to do with “cap and trade” legislation. The former is good, the latter is bad.
Brazil may be the smart nation, but America has got to be the slow nation. My subheadline says, “America, I told you so.” Some know that I was an independent candidate, opposing Ronald Reagan’s re-election to the White House in 1984.
My platform included solar power satellites, hydrogen fuel for vehicles, and I backed more research into fusion. All of my choices were so emission free, that I have no sympathy for those who now fearmonger about carbon dioxide.
–Imagine if my advocacy was heeded, in the mid-1980s. We would now be 26 years down the right track. Hydrogen vehicles would be the norm. We wouldn’t worry about CO2 and we wouldn’t worry about the Middle East. America has heard from me before (the teenager for President!), and I am one who can say “America, I told you so.”
Had we heeded my advice, the Apollo-style “moon shot” for energy independence would have happened long ago. We wouldn’t worry about the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, because there would have been no demand to drill that oil well. Why drill oil wells, in an America with hydrogen vehicles?
And, if an Apollo-style crash program is in order, then it would be good to set an example. If I were the U.S. President right now, I would order a hydrogen powered presidential limousine, and a hydrogen powered Air Force One. I would practice what I preach, serving notice to one and all that oil powered vehicles will be replaced with new energy vehicles.
That is the opportunity before Barack Obama right now, and that is the opportunity that he will miss tonight.
I predict that the bandied moon shot is not coming from this President tonight. But, maybe it will come from President Biden next year.