A few weeks ago while obviously frustrated with the pace of the gulf oil clean-up, President Obama blurted out “I can’t suck it up with a straw” and he is right, no one expects or desires the President of the United States to roll up his pants, board a row boat and pitch in with the physical effort of plugging up the hole or cleaning up the oil spill, that is not what a leader does. The problem is that the president has no idea what a leader does in a disaster situation. His job is to clear roadblocks, to open doors, to facilitate the work of those who are cleaning up the spill, who are for want of a better term, are out there in front lines, sucking it up with a straw.
Three recent news stories point to the fact that President Obama understands very little about being a leader.
The Jones Act, for weeks people have been calling on the Administration to request a wavier on the Jones Act which limits the use of foreign ships in Amercan waters. The wavier is needed to allow foreign ships to help in the clean-up. A leader would have requested the waiver a long time ago, yet the President still has yet to acknowledge that the Jones act even exists. Today some members of Congress got tired of waiting:
Senators Cornyn (R-Texas), LeMieux (R-Fla.), and Hutchinson (R-Texas) have introduced legislation, S. 3512, the WAIVER (Water Assistance from International Vessels for Emergency Response), which would temporarily suspend the Jones Act and allow foreign vessels to enter the Gulf of Mexico to aid in the cleanup of the oil spill….Two days after Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of Louisiana, on September 1, 2005, President Bush waived the Jones Act, expediting foreign support.
“The only reason the president has preserved the Jones Act during this national emergency is to protect maritime unions. Democrats have politicized this disaster and are using it to appease frustrated unions. Republican senators have proposed good legislation, S. 3512, that would waive the Jones Act and get a cleanup underway,” Norquist added…..
“While it is unrealistic to think the federal government has the specialization necessary to stop an oil leak one mile below sea level, it is fair to ask why they aren’t doing everything within their power to protect the Gulf,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform. “How Obama can turn down assistance from countries that are more experienced at cleaning up oil is confounding.”
The Jones act is not the only closed door hampering the clean-up, the EPA is also slowing things down. Especially in the Case of the “A Whale” a Giant Skimmer that can do in a day and a half what other skimming crews take over two months to do.
To join the fight, the ship also might require separate waivers from the Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The A Whale — pronounced along the lines of “A Team” because there is a “B Whale” coming — is designed to work 20 to 50 miles offshore where smaller skimmers have trouble navigating. The ship would take in oily water and transfer it into specialized storage tanks on the flanks of the vessel. From there, the oil-fouled seawater would be pumped into internal tanks where the oil would separate naturally from the water.
After the separation process, the oil would be transferred to other tankers or shore-based facilities while the remaining water would be pumped back into the gulf.
Because the process wouldn’t remove all traces of oil from the seawater, TMT will likely have to gain a special permit from the EPA, said Scott H. Segal of the Washington lobbying firm, Bracewell &Giuliani, which TMT has retained to help negotiate with federal regulators.
Correct me If I am wrong but the EPA reports to the President right? Here is a perfect example of what I was talking about, the president could immediately order the EPA to give the “A Whale” any wavier it needs, but instead the company had to hire a lawyer and navigate through bureaucracy.
Another door that the president cannot show the leadership to try and open is inside his own State Department. Ten days ago we reported that the US had received 28 offers of help from foreign countries and only five were accepted, one rejected and the remaining 22 were under consideration. Today that number is up to 33 offers, and only 12 have been accepted.
A good leader opens doors, facilitates the work of others. The reason Barack Obama is not a good leader is that he doesn’t understand that concept. No one expects him to get his hands dirty cleaning up the oil himself, but we do expect him to get his hands dirty by forcing his way through the bureaucracy and making sure that the people who are cleaning up aren’t slowed down by nonsense. Barack Obama has abandoned that primary leadership responsibility.
You can read more of Jeff’s writing at his website, Jeffdunetz.com