There ain’t no fence to sit on

Obama describes BP as reckless. On the other hand it seems that BP were no better or worse prepared than other oil companies operating in the USA. But Obama has no choice.

The US media, and I’m sure much of the UK media would do the same, wants a scapegoat, and they’ve attached Obama to BP. They enjoyed bringing down Bush over Katrina, and in a spirit of fairness they want to bring Obama down to. In a spirit of unfairness too – how much is Obama guilty of anything other than maybe appearing too aloof?

BP is an easy target. They’re learning on the job – how to contain the uncontainable in the full glare of the media. That their MD is still standing and talking and fighting is a testimony to the strength of the guy.

So as a Brit I’d argue we should recognise that responsibility is shared, and work together, not against each other.  And yet, the real world has BP hanging one-hand clinging over a cliff and they’re pulling Obama down with them. He’s got to let them fall.

Obama has a clear history-based belief in American destiny, American exceptionalism.  (Whether or not we as Brits share any of it is another matter, but in adopting him as one of ours as we’ve been tempted to do we should always remember  – he’s an American first.) But there’s another interpretation of that destiny, and Fox and tea-parties and the small government anti-Washington lobby, all espouse it.

BP is the current touchstone of that conflict, and there isn’t a fence to sit on.

His speech Wednesday (16th) from the Oval Office underlines that point. He is right to link it to an opening an opportunity to change energy policy forever – which means to plan it more, to reduce dependence on overseas energy sources but not at the cost of further unregulated offshore production. He’s trying to take the America people on the back of the current crisis to somewhere they haven’t been. It will be interesting to see – and critical – how many go with him.

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