Is it Bush's oil spill or Obama's? Yes.
In a House hearing this morning on offshore drilling, Democrats and Republicans each attempted to implicate the other party’s leaders in the Deepwater Horizon spill. Democrats faulted Dick Cheney and his secretive energy task force, which the former vice president’s opponents have blamed for everything but Mel Gibson’s tirades. Republicans pointed out that President Obama and his interior secretary were in charge during the run-up to the spill.
All of this is, of course, ridiculous. The Deepwater Horizon spill is like the financial crisis. Sure, some probably bear more blame than others (BP), but the root problem -- widespread underestimation of the risks -- was powerful and pervasive. There hadn’t been a major offshore rig accident in American waters in decades. Nearly everyone -- industry, regulators, policymakers -- assumed that technological advances had made the risk of a major blowout negligible. Just like nearly everyone failed to appreciate how unstable the American housing market had become by 2008 or, even if they did, to anticipate the disastrous contagion that would infect the global financial system when it went bust.
It’s too easy simply to throw oily mud at Cheney, Wall Street fat cats and others like them. These disasters are bigger than unsympathetic characters, and the solutions required go far beyond shaming a few bad actors. That kind of small-bore rhetoric distracts us from thoroughly assessing what went wrong and how to fix it.
Cheers, then, to California Democrat Henry Waxman, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who laid blame where it belongs: everywhere. "We will learn that the Department of Interior under both President Bush and President Obama made serious mistakes.... The cop on the beat was off duty for nearly a decade. And this gave rise to a dangerous culture of permissiveness."
| July 20, 2010; 1:37 PM ET
Categories: Stromberg | Tags: Stephen Stromberg
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