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Why the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could be a double catastrophe

The non-mainstream anti-Obama media in the USA have been describing this Gulf of Mexico oil spill as, potentially, Obama’s Katrina. President Obama has, they say, been too slow in responding.

I dissent. Not about the reality of it all. Maybe Obama has indeed responded too slowly. About that, I don’t know. I would only say that just because he has been taking his time about making big speeches about it doesn’t mean he hasn’t kept abreast of it.

No, my dissent concerns the political significance of all this. I think this disaster could be the making of the Obama presidency, in much the same way that the Oklahoma bomb rescued President Clinton at a time when he was staring the ignominy of a one-term presidency in the face. As I said in this posting here, and as others have explained in greater detail, the Oklahoma bombing enabled Clinton to completely change the political narrative in the USA and to put the Republicans on the back foot – which was why no seriously good Republican candidate was even willing to stand against Clinton when Clinton was trying to get re-elected and why the bloke they did pick made such a confused mess of his campaign.

I think this oil spill could be about to do the same kind of thing for President Obama. The odd thing is, the Democrats, egged on by ex-President Clinton, who has been trying to relive his own greatest political triumph, have been so busy trying to paint the Tea Partiers as Oklahoma bombers, that they seem to have been a bit slow to see the potential of this oil spill. Which, unlike Clinton’s fabrications, is for real. Certainly, Clinton himself didn’t get this. It isn’t Oklahoma, but this oil spill looks to me, for the Democrats, just as good. Big Oil drills off the coast of the USA, just as Sarah Palin said they should be doing much more of, and causes an environmental catastrophe, of the kind perfectly calculated to show that without the Federal Government going flat out and chucking money at the problem like there is no tomorrow, the people in the frontline of this disaster are ruined. They need their government. And those Tea Partiers, blathering away about the folly of government spending and the ability and necessity of people standing on their own feet and not begging for government charity? True, they are not psycho bombers. They didn’t actually blow up the oil rig. (Well, they probably didn’t.) But they are, politically, something almost as bad. They are just plain wrong.

This is how the Democrats will spin it. Why do I say that? Because if I were a Democrat that’s how I’d spin it.

Any alleged delay on the part of President Obama in responding to this crisis may actually play into his hands, because this will serve to prove (a) that President Obama didn’t panic and waited until he had the full facts before mouthing off about it, and (b) did not seize gleefully on this crisis for political purposes. And it’s true. At first, he didn’t. (If he did, he did it very, very cleverly, i.e. absolutely without appearing to.)

When the oil hits the coast during the next few days, a double disaster could then unfold in the USA. There will be the oil hitting the coast. And, there will be a reinvigorated pro-Obama, pro-Big-Government team, laying into the Tea Partiers with a vigour that they haven’t been able to muster since they got their man elected in the first place. And the Tea Partiers could be seriously in retreat for the first time. Those elections that are coming up suddenly look very different.

The big difference between now and the time of the Oklahoma bombing is that now, there is no Democrat media monopoly. There is an internet out there, in which the Tea Partier’s intellectual leaders can explain, at least to the Tea Partiers, why all that I have written above is wrong. This oil spill doesn’t prove what the Democrats are going to say it proves. The Tea Party argument remains utterly right. That money should be spent on protecting people from this disaster just shows how important it is not to waste money on all the other stupid government projects the government does now waste money on. Actually the private sector could be doing a better job cleaning this up, if only it is allowed to. The President should stay out of it. The scale of the disaster is being exaggerated by Democrats for political purpose. Whatever. We shall see.

But me, I am pessimistic about this. As I lay in my bed earlier today, I was hearing BBC news bulletins on BBC Radio 3, in among the BBC’s classical music output, and I definitely thought I detected the shape of political arguments to come, and not just in the USA. No mention of Obama delays. In the first of those reports linked to above, there is video of Obama saying he and the government were tracking it from the get go. No effort will be spared. Your government is answering your call, to rescue you from the big bad private sector.

As I often add when writing pieces about the USA, I don’t live there and have never even been there. So commenters should feel entirely free, as they would feel anyway, to tell me that I have this all wrong. But, as of now, I don’t think I have.

31 comments to Why the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could be a double catastrophe

  • Elguapo

    Very possible. It will allow a lot of posturing and finger pointing at an evil oil giant while the govt gets to stand back and watch BP foot the bill as well. It’s perfect for Obama.

  • CayleyGraph

    Oh lordy, don’t give them any ideas!

    Seriously, though, that’s about right. I wondered why some people attempted to try to spin this as “Obama’s Katrina” when it didn’t seem to be bad for Obama’s position at all. Maybe it’s an attempt to get them on the defensive, so their message will be “It’s not our fault” instead of what you suggest?

  • My thoughts exactly, the double standard that affects everything Obama will continue with this.

  • The double standard is of course, alive and well. I’ve noticed that over the last couple of days the MSM has been downplaying the oil spill even as in reality its getting worse.

    The problem for Obama is that while he sorta supported offshore drilling, and now looks to cancel the whole program. The Chinese and the Russians are going to start drilling in the same waters with Cuban licenses. So while it looks as if he is protecting the US from the evil US and British Oil Companies, he is in fact just handing over the reserves to Fidel, Hu and Putin. Nice deal.

    In the US the fight over immigration and the Times Square Bomb are distractions that didn’t exist in 1995.

  • Laird

    Hey, this was a British Petroleum drilling rig. It’s all your fault. Let’s lay the blame on Gordon Brown.

  • Sunfish

    Hey, this was a British Petroleum drilling rig. It’s all your fault. Let’s lay the blame on Gordon Brown.

    It’s all the redcoats’ fault. Where the hell is Lyndon LaRouche these days? Will Barry Hussein Soetoro make him a czar of something?

  • lukas

    Oh, but a large part of the bill won’t be footed by BP at all. BP (or whoever ends up being liable) pays for cleaning up the spill, but they are mostly off the hook for damages, whose cost will be socialized.

  • sam Iam

    must have been a democrat forgetting about the damage and using it as a platform to position themselves. I am from Canada and find it really sad that the opening statement is about politics and not about trying to minimize the damage and the steps required. your politics are very much self destructive and focused on suckling on the government titty. I suggest that you take your wankers like the author – take our French Canadians and send them to the front of the disaster to roll up your sleeves and clean up the mess. Doubt that you elitists could stomach work or reality – you are more interested in ‘thinking’ and not ‘doing’ – shame on all of you.

  • sam Iam

    At least I can think.

  • BP can save the day if they spend their free market money to fix the problem instead of getting a hand out to do it. I’ve heard they want to pay fishing boats in the area to help with the clean-up. Stimulate the economy and clean up the mess could show business does do it better, otherwise liberals won’t be right because of their worldview, but because again big business will privatize profits and dump their disasters on an already bankrupt federal government, proving that the only thing that can put business in line is government not business ethics, or human morality.

  • newrouter

    one problem: there was a gov’t action plan for this type of accident and it wasn’t implemented.

    If U.S. officials had followed up on a 1994 response plan for a major Gulf oil spill, it is possible that the spill could have been kept under control and far from land.

    The problem: The federal government did not have a single fire boom on hand.

    The “In-Situ Burn” plan produced by federal agencies in 1994 calls for responding to a major oil spill in the Gulf with the immediate use of fire booms.


  • Alice

    Brian — You were wrong before; you are wrong now; and if you keep resisting the truth, you will be wrong in the future.

    A picture of votes cast in Presidential elections would say a thousand words. Don’t have a picture, so here are some words to explain why you are wrong that the OK City bombing saved Clinton. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

    If you dig out the data on actual votes cast in US Presidential elections, something jumps out. Since Watergate, votes for the Democrat candidate have grown at about the rate of population increase, regardless of candidate. Voting Democrat is as much a biological characteristic as the color of a person’s eyes.

    Everyone agrees that Al Gore was a lousy candidate — but he got more votes than Super Politician Clinton ever got. John Kerry was an even worse candidate than Gore — but he still got more votes. Every election, votes cast for the Democrat Presidential candidate goes up.

    On the Republican side, in contrast, the vote tally rocks up and down. Up when the Republicans run a Reagan, down when they run a Dole or a McCain.

    There are a lot of Contingent Voters in the US. People who will never vote for a Democrat Presidential candidate, and will vote for a Republican only if he offers a positive fix-government attitude. (They will vote for a Perot too, when he offers something close). Otherwise, those Contingent Voters sit on their hands and don’t vote.

    US Presidential elections since Watergate have been determined by the characteristics of the Republican candidate — nothing else. Clinton got “lucky” in 1996 — the Republicans (with a lot of help from crossover Democrat voters in the primaries) nominated Bob Dole; a decent gentleman, but not a fix-government kind of visionary.

    Of course, the same propagandizing media that protects empty suit Obama never talks about the real data on elections. They talk about “swings to the Democrats”, ignoring that the “swing” is because the Republican vote count went down, not that the Democrat count went up.

    Bottom line, Brian, you are totally utterly wrong about OK City saving Clinton. You are simply not correct. I would call you a victim of false doctrine, but you are not a victim — just wrong.

    None of that counters your point that the media will let the Big 0 off on the oil spill. Whether they let BP off is another matter.

    BP has form — Texas City refinery explosion, Alaska pipeline leaks, UK fines for manipulating the Brent market. If it is remotely possible to make the case that the spill was due to corner-cutting by BP, BP is toast. Obama never liked the Brits anyway, and this just gives him justification for his prejudice. And US voters have become sufficiently disgruntled over the last decade at perfidious ungrateful Euros that even many of those who detest Obama will simply shrug their shoulders if Obama goes after a British company.

    But you are still wrong, Brian, about Clinton & Oklahoma City. Did I mention that your view was in error?

  • Check out this podcast, about what the worst case scenarios of the spill may be ie: Southern cities on fire. It also talks about how this will be the Chernobyl moment for the oil industry. (Link)

  • Unlike the Oklahoma bombing however, this Gulf oil spill precedes a congressional election, not a presidential election, which means any “stay-home-because-the-candidate-is-crap-effect” will be weakened by the fact that there will be many different Republican candidates all across the country, and while some voters in Louisiana and maybe Alabama and Texas might relegate the multiple trillion dollar deficit and all the other problems because of the immediacy of the gulf oil spill, I don’t see why voters elsewhere will do the same. So I think this “Gulf oil spill = Obama’s Oklahoma” is a false historical analogy and that the Republicans will do better in the November elections than feared.

  • Alice:

    Interesting. Very interesting.

    Can any other commenters confirm or deny what Alice says about (a) the Democrat vote slowly rising regardless of who is the candidate, and (b) the Republican vote fluctuating a lot very much regardful (?!) of who is the candidate? Is she right about that? Comments very much wanted on that, please.

    Not that this proves that I am wrong about the Oklahoma thing, because the question then becomes about the relationship between the media and the Republican potential vote.

    In short, what you say about the voting behaviour of both sides and what I say about the media narrative don’t necessarily conflict. After all, if Alice is right, then the “Republicans” know how to win every time. So, why don’t they? Answer the Republicans are hardly a party at all. They are an arena of conflict. And why, this time around does one side (in the Republican civil war) win rather than the other. Why do they nominate Reagan this year, but Dole or McCain another year?

    This fits perfectly with the notion that the Tea Party movement is basically a new battle in the permanent Republican civil war. Made possible by the new media. The Tea Partiers are the ones saying: always nominate a Reagan, and always win. Their “Republican” opponents are saying: but we don’t want the “Republicans” to win every time. Ghastly.

    So, Alice, you are totally wrong about the media, and their alleged (by you) insignificance. (Unless of course you are not wrong and I am wrong.)

    But first things first. Is Alice right or wrong about the big voting picture?

    If I get no good answers in this comment thread, I will shout louder until I do. I.e. do a separate posting about this.

    This is what blogging is all about, in my opinion.

  • jdm

    But first things first. Is Alice right or wrong about the big voting picture?

    Welllll, she’s not wrong (scroll down to the end of the page and click on each of the electoral years for the results). Her assertions are an interesting and reasonable explanation for this data set.

    I’d like to write more, but I have to leave…

  • Alice

    Brian — compiled data on voting in Presidential elections is available from http://uselectionatlas.org/. Pictures tell the story better, but here are a few vote tallies (Democrat vs Republican, millions of votes):

    1980 Carter 35.5 Reagan 43.9
    1984 Mondale 37.6 Reagan 54.5
    1988 Dukakis 41.8 H.W.Bush 48.9
    1992 Clinton 44.9 H.W.Bush 39.1
    1996 Clinton 47.4 Dole 39.2
    2000 Gore 51.0 W.Bush 50.5

    One would be hard put to demonstrate from this that Clinton benefitted from the OK City bombing.

    Also, I am not arguing that the media are powerless, simply that the media are engaged in mis-direction.

    The most important election in the Presidential cycle is the Republican Primary, since the Democrat will get about the same votes regardless. In many states, anyone can vote in the Republican primary, and lots of Democrats do. The media also build up weak Republican candidates, like John McCain, during the Primary season, only to knock them down in the Presidential cycle.

    Brian, please do blog on this. A lot. Even in the US, most non-Democrats are unaware of this. All anyone hears from the media is that this time the election will be decided by the Soccer Mom or the Nascar Dad. And the real dynamics of the Contingent Voters remains under the radar.

  • Jessica Boxer

    Alice, two words: Barry Goldwater.

  • jdm

    Jessica, two words: “Since Watergate”.

  • So what about Watergate? And Goldwater, for that matter? Seconding Brian: this is very interesting.

  • jdm

    So what about Watergate?

    Read again what Alice wrote. To wit, “If you dig out the data on actual votes cast in US Presidential elections, something jumps out. Since Watergate”.

  • Yes, I understood that jdm. Read my question again, to wit: “What about Watergate?”, as opposed to, say “since when does the data behave according to this pattern?”. And, come to that yet again: what about Goldwater?

  • sassamon

    I wonder, how much the increase in votes for the Democrat, is due to increased voter fraud.

  • What Alice’s observation says to me (and it looks like she is correct) is that running fake conservative candidates like McCain is ruinous not just to the GOP but the country as well. Grow a pair, and put some real conservatives up there.

    I had lunch with my co-workers today, and they are a basically conservative lot, but not terribly fascinated with day to day partisan politics. The general take in a room of ten people was that this is an environmental disaster that may take a year to clean up, and that the hard-won victory of getting Obama to agree to allow off-shore drilling has been swept away with one event. Everyone naturally assumes that energy costs will rise as a result, and that there is nothing that can be done about it.

    The media are controlling the conversation, and we will see in the next couple of days which way the spin goes. I dont think it will be sufficient to argue that the amount of oil spilling into the region is insignificant compared to the risks entailed by bringing it in with tankers. Frankly, I think the people who favor drilling have just lost the argument, period.

  • Alice

    “And, come to that yet again: what about Goldwater?”

    Alisa, most current voters could not tell you who Goldwater was, or why he mattered. The past is another country, etc.

    A lot happened in the late 60s/early 70s. Democrats in Congress abandoned the Vietnamese. Watergate, of course. The start of the left’s Long March through the educational system. The beginning of Affirmative Action (good), and its perversion into racist quotas (bad). The Oil Shocks. Worst of all, the music died — the end of good popular music.

    I have no idea how the causal loops are interconnected. Only that the facts of actual votes cast in Presidential elections suggest the particular Democrat candidate has had no significant impact on number of votes received in about 30 years. Whereas the particular Republican candidate has had a big impact (tens of millions of votes).

    This seems hugely important, and yet it has been totally ignored.

    My simplistic interpretation is that, since the Baby Boomers arrived on the scene, voting Democrat for President is a statement by the voter about himself. That’s all. There is a smaller number of reflex Republican voters. Elections are decided by the large number of Contingent Voters, who might vote for a Republican but will never vote for a Democrat. Contingent Voters seem to see government as the problem, not the solution.

    But my simplistic interpretation could certainly be wrong.

  • Alice

    An earlier post ran afoul of the ever-vigilant SmiteBot. While that is pending, let me add some words on Goldwater.

    It seems a fair question. If the US people really want limited government types in charge, why did Goldwater go down to defeat so badly in 1964? (Johnson got 43.1 million votes, Goldwater 27.2 million).

    This was before my time. But two things jump out from the pages of the history books.

    First, the assassination of President Kennedy made that 1964 election unique. Perhaps a lot of people cast a sympathy vote for Johnston as JFK’s heir. Certainly, we have to go all the way to Clinton in 1992 before a Democrat got more votes than Johnston in 1964 — and the US population had grown substantially over those intervening 28 years.

    Second, 1964 was before Johnson had had the opportunity to put his poisonous “Great Society” programs on the books. The Democrats were at that time still an American Party, not tea-sipping internationalists.

    Johnston was the heir to a John Kennedy who had actually fought in the US armed forces. Kennedy’s Democrats had cut taxes. They had proudly built nuclear weapons, and, in the Cuban Crisis, convinced the USSR that they might even use them. JFK had launched Americans on the path to the Moon, with crews of white American males selected only on the basis of ability; not a single token handicapped Palestinian lesbian single mother amongst those astronauts.

    Bottom line, I could imagine many Tea-Partiers supporting a JFK today (or even casting a supportive vote for JFK’s tragic heir). But I can’t imagine a JFK getting the Democrat nomination today.

    Somewhere in the late 60s & 1970s, the Democrats (or at least Democrat elites) changed direction and became the far-left, big-government, financially-profligate, anti-American milksops of today. Why?

  • “Somewhere in the late 60s & 1970s, the Democrats (or at least Democrat elites) changed direction and became the far-left, big-government, financially-profligate, anti-American milksops of today.”

    Disagree – the big 20th century shift to the far left among Democrats was with FDR in the 30s, not JFK in the 60s. Surely the post-watergate data has more to do with the coming of age of post-world war two children… i.e. children who could not remember an America without big government.

  • Paul Marks

    For once I take the optomistic view Brian.

    This terrible event will not really help Barack Obama.

    Certainly he may use it to keep the ban on off shore drilling (no one even mentions the oil shale in the mountain States that could be used without any risk to fishing or sea coasts – still at least Alberta is not a State of the United States, so they will go into using oil shale).

    But this will not help Obama politically – and the economic crash is comming (it will come before November 2012).

    The only thing that can save him is “violence from the right” which is why we must keep a watch out.

    Either for a real conservative or libertarian who follows the path of violence (without understanding that such methods will only HELP the Comrades) or for a FAKE operation. Not fake violence – but a fake “right”.

    The left have used such methods many times over the last century (in many countries) – sometimes whole “false flag” organizations have been set up.

    The message is simple:

    The person who uses violence serves the Comrades – he either does so unintentionally (out of error) or he does so deliberately (because he is one of them – or is a weak minded person controlled by them).

    This must be banged home – again and again.

  • Paul Marks

    Alice – quite so.

    Nasty though it is to accept – voting Democrat is “natural” it is the path of least resistance.

    After all voting Democrat is only doing what education (all levels of education – and including many private schools) points someone into doing – and what the msm (including the entertainment media) back also.

    So to NOT vote Democrat is to not follow the default option – it requires some (perhaps not a huge amount, but some) INDEPENDENT THOUGHT.

    And the trouble with people who think (rather than just conform) is that they can not be taken for granted.

    The “anti left” in the United States are like a “hurd of cats” they go off in all directions and are made up of people with very different opinions on many things.

    So they may not vote at all unless inspired – and there must be a message that will resound with the enough of them to win.

    What message is this?

    My view is that it as follows:

    Role back the state in terms of government spending, taxes and regulations – economic libertarianism (or a least a move to some extent in that direction).

    Social conservativism (i.e. rejection of the P.C. ideolgy that the is the heart of leftist “idenity politics”) but NOT using the state to try and restore conservative social values.

    Using the state to try and restore conservative social values alienates independent voters – and DOES NOT WORK ANYWAY.

    And (finally) strong national defence – including securing the borders (sorry Independent Institute and so on).

    But NOT wars with no clear objectives thousands of miles away.

    If someone orders an attack upon Americans – then find them, kill them (slaugher all involved with the full force of the United States, no military hands tied and no one left alive to seek revenge), and then BRING THE TROOPS HOME.

    No “nation building” or other B.S.

    If the three basic principles above (roll back the state economically an end to the Welfare State, end P.C. attacks on conservative social values – but do not try and use the state to restore conservative social values, and strong national defence including border security – but no endless overseas wars) are followed, then elections can be won.

    And the United States (the nation without which the rest of the West can not stand) can be saved from bankruptcy.

  • Midwesterner

    Well then the alt media (like us) need to carry on about the pure insider corporatism that led to this ‘accident’.

    Goldwater/Johnson was a sympathy vote. Actually a misguided but strong charactered example of American reaction to attack.

    What changed around the time of Nixon is the revival of identity politics which was brought about with Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ programs. Throughout most of the time between the Reconstruction and the Great Society political battles, while fierce, were fought over policy questions.

  • Midwesterner

    Curious, WaPo is playing games.