Missing in the oil spill
It's always nice to get out of Washington and talk to "real" Americans. Okay, I was talking to New Yorkers, so they're not as "real" as, say, Kansans. But they have views of what's going on in Washington that get me to thinking.
One observation was, "Where's Janet Napolitano?" Indeed, when the question was asked, I thought, "Yeah, where HAS she been?" In the early days of the gulf catastrophe, the secretary of homeland security was visible. After all, the Coast Guard, which is leading response efforts in the gulf, falls under her behemoth agency. But a couple of things happened to shove her off the main stage -- incessant criticism of DHS's handling of the oil spill response and the foiled Times Square bomb plot, 11 days after the April 20 oil rig explosion.
The two dovetail because they play right into the burgeoning narrative that Napolitano's department is too big to deal with disasters and that she has been a tad tone deaf. It all got started when she earned brick bats in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing when she said "the system worked" (not!). And then she described the May 1 Times Square bomb plot as a "one-off." Not choice words to use, but it definitely isn't proof that Napolitano doesn't understand or take seriously the terrorist threat against the United States.
You know who else has disappeared? Or, I should say, has diminished stature? Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
The New York Times yesterday had a good story about this. The wayward Minerals Management Service and the oil rigs it is supposed to regulate are in his portfolio. And the lack of reform has hurt him. President Obama's appointment last week of veteran investigator Michael Bromwich to head the MMS was not only the equivalent of calling the cops on MMS, it was also the equivalent of lighting a fire under Salazar's, er, behind.
BP has to get that hold plugged. And the Obama administration has to keep its boots, hands and whatever else on the company's neck to ensure it gets done and done right. But if the American people are going to trust that government isn't in thrall to corporate interests who put profit over responsibility, then Bromwich -- and, by extension, Obama and Salazar -- has to show real and sustained progress in changing the culture of corruption that corroded the MMS and contributed to the circumstances that led to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. History.
| June 21, 2010; 6:14 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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