What Now?

President Obama was in the Gulf region yesterday, trying, somehow, to get ahead of the environmental/political disaster that is the oil spill there. The Associated Press covers his visit, no longer treating Obama as untouchable.
As a practical matter, Obama has been reduced to railing against British Petroleum and vowing that the oil company someday will pay. There are several problems with this approach. First, “railing” is never the image that a President wants to project. Second, as the oil begins to wash ashore in Alabama and Florida, and the spill goes on and on–what is this, day 46? Something like that–the inadequacy of money damages years down the road is painfully obvious. Obama risks looking impotent, as he and his aides can’t keep their story straight: is BP just a puppet that has been taking orders from the feds from the first day of the spill, or are the federal agencies so constrained as to be virtually powerless to do anything about the crisis?
Further, Obama demanded yesterday that BP not pay its shareholders a dividend. This is beyond impotent, it’s silly. If there were some legitimate concern about BP’s solvency and its ultimate ability to pay cleanup costs and damages, such a demand might make some kind of sense. But there isn’t. Once again, Obama just looks petulant.
Likewise with his ban on exploratory drilling in the Gulf, a classic case of shutting the barn door long after the cows are gone. A study by the Louisiana Mid-continent Oil and Gas Association concludes that Obama’s moratorium will cost Gulf Coast workers $330 million per month in lost wages–exactly what the hard-hit Gulf economy doesn’t need.
The AP story linked above includes this vignette:

On Obama’s trip to the Grand Isle on the Louisiana coast, his motorcade passed a building adorned with his portrait reminiscent of posters of him during his presidential campaign. Instead of “hope” or “change,” the words “what now?” were on his forehead.

Here is a photo of the building; the AP didn’t mention the Jindal for President sign:
“What now?” is unfortunately a question to which the Obama administration has no apparent answer.

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