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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Is America Ready for "Angry Black" Obama?

So everyone's talking about this as "Obama's Katrina," even Frank Rich:
For all the second-guessing, it’s still not clear what else the president might have done to make a definitive, as opposed to cosmetic, difference in plugging the hole: yell louder at BP, send in troops and tankers, or, as James Carville would have it, assume the role of Big Daddy? The spill is not a Tennessee Williams play, its setting notwithstanding, and it’s hard to see what more drama would add, particularly since No Drama Obama’s considerable talents do not include credible play-acting.

But life isn’t fair, and this president is in a far tougher spot in 2010 than his predecessor was in 2005.
Sure, the US Navy has submersibles; how many Navy submersible crews have experience with underwater oil-drilling? Answer: none. The US Coast Guard doesn't have enough boom to protect the shores for which they're responsible.

What ought Obama to have done? He should've just dropped an atomic bomb on it. Or designed top kill himself on a napkin. He should've farted on the head of BP's CEO. Lots of good ideas -- but what they really come down to is the lack of an angry black man:


Much more after the jump...


Rich is a little more gentle:

As long as the stain washes up on shore, the hole in BP’s pipe will serve the right as a gaping hole in the president’s argument for expanded government supervision of, for starters, Big Oil and big banks. It’s not just the gulf that could suffer for decades to come.
Not only does the president look bad if BP takes months to drill the relief-well; he looks bad every day that the fiction of corporate responsibility stands between the American people and a piece of BP's hide.

British Petroleum -- a foreign corporation! -- has no right to any of that oil. Not only did the company eschew safety in pursuit of immense profit, it lied about the amount of oil and then tried to prevent any real accounting. Yet we have seen Coast Guard boats -- American military craft! -- serving as BP's lackeys (a testament to how deeply captured our republican organs of state have become).

The entire crisis was created by irregulation. Every stage has been revealing: the Coast Guard did not have enough boom to protect the coastlines. BP was actually in charge of booming, and bollixed the job. The agency regulating oil rigs was still a rubber-stamp despite the change at the top of DoI. BP was operating in the libertarian paradise of a bad western. Not only should BP pay for cleaning up, I say this criminally-negligent corporate person should lose the oil.

I don't ask that this thing called British Petroleum stop existing. I ask that it be held accountable just as a non-corporate person would be held accountable if they accidentally poisoned the Gulf of bloody Mexico: any and all gains from the poisoning would be confiscated, lacking the legal protection of "property."

I say the well needs to be public property and the oil under it added to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. I say any and all profits from the development of that well should be used to pay off the costs of future cleanup after BP finishes paying for this mess.

They should lose, or else there is no justice. It's not complicated. I realize the post title invites controversy, but so be it. We have heard stories of the president losing patience, but we have not seen them.

As Americans, we want the image on our screens of an angry Obama spanking a corporate-person-child. It's that simple. The right constantly tries to make him out as an angry black man; it is an image he has always eschewed, even to his detriment when he is portrayed as weak and vacillating. (If he's not angry, he's not easily enough angered. See how that works?)

This president actually does use power, but quietly. For instance, while getting BP to show the camera feed during top kill and getting them to agree to an independent flow measurement. There is obviously communication and some kind of pressure going on. Rumors persist that there will be criminal charges; yet we have not seen them, and no president ought to declare his desire for them lest he taint the process.

My point here is that you are never, ever going to see the "angry black" Obama. It is not going to happen. Brett Baier tried his damnedest to get one and failed. What we want, of course, is just an angry president. But would America divorce the image from the meme awaiting it?

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