Friday, June 18, 2010


I've been straddling the fence lately on the subject of President Obama's job performance, leaning more lately, albeit reluctantly, toward being part of the liberal backlash against the guy. Yeah, I understand the backlash against the backlash -- he's got a list of achievements, he's doing what he's doing with little cooperation from Blue Dogs and absolute resistance from Republicans, and he can't be expected to perform miracles.

And, well, maybe it's highly unrealistic to expect him and his team to eliminate all red tape in the Gulf. But I think there ought to be a prejudice, an instinct, toward action -- not a reckless one, but a dialing down of the cautiousness just a notch -- so the administration avoids moments like this:

Eight days ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered barges to begin vacuuming crude oil out of his state's oil-soaked waters. Today, against the governor's wishes, those barges sat idle, even as more oil flowed toward the Louisiana shore....

Sixteen barges sat stationary today, although they were sucking up thousands of gallons of BP's oil as recently as Tuesday....

But the Coast Guard ordered the stoppage because of reasons that Jindal found frustrating. The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges....

Dude, you know the narrative. Obama's too slow to act. Obama loves big government. If these guys want to go out without every safety box checked off, and Jindal, a guy who wants your job, a guy who has a book coming out in a few weeks and badly wants to improve his public image right now, is backing them up, well, screw it -- your guys shouldn't be standing in their way. Treat this an emergency, and regard this as analogous to a "good Samaritan" law that lets doctors intervene in emergencies without dotting all i's and crossing all t's.

I know the right hits you six ways from Sunday, but in the worst case -- someone dies or is seriously wounded and it turns out the safety gear wasn't up to code -- even the right-wing noise machine couldn't possibly get traction arguing that you weren't paying enough attention to safety regulations. The target market for the right-wing noise machine doesn't believe in safety regulations -- at all. The target market for the right-wing noise machine has been whipped up into such an Ayn Rand frenzy in recent years that a candidate who called for the overturning of child labor laws could probably win Sarah Palin's endorsement and a GOP primary.

And besides, if you were a slick enough pol, you'd find a way to shift the onus, so that if anything happened to any of these guys, it would be Jindal's fault, because they'd be Jindal's guys.

Look -- maybe the real explanation here isn't the one given in the story. But it would help to be on top of these things, and be ready with a good explanation if you have one. This story's from the nightly news at ABC, and the nightly network news is a dinosaur institution, but you need to be vigilant and get out in front of stories like this because you could have known the right would be looking extra hard for something to blow the stench of Joe Barton out of the air.

Be a smart pol. Don't let yourself get bitten by stories like this. Head them off.


UPDATE: Well, if this delay was temporary and he problem has been resolved, as this story (pointed out by commenter rdxtion) suggests, then this is mostly a messaging problem for the White House. But I'd still like to see some countermessaging -- this story was huge on the right, and needs to be rebutted.

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