Loose Canons

It’s TACAMO Time Again

Where are the guys and gals whom the president insists were on deck and on duty from Day 1?

By 6.1.10

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We are living in a time when our government only does well those things that it needn't (or shouldn't) do and can't -- or won't -- do what the Constitution created it to do.

We are not winning the war, illegal immigration is still out of control, and our Interior Secretary is proud to say that the government's boot is on the neck of British Petroleum while oil continues to gush out of BP's mile-deep well.

More than forty days and forty nights since the Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded and sank, the Obama administration has failed utterly to take action to minimize the damage to our economy and the ecological disaster caused by the enormous flow of oil onto our coasts.

When last we visited hapless Louisiana, Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Nawlins Mayor Ray Nagin had managed to collaborate so well with the Bush administration that Hurricane Katrina became a national tragedy.

But George "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie" Bush deserved and received much of the blame. True to our credo that the government should defend the shores, deliver the mail and otherwise stay the hell out of our lives, conservatives found it amazing and abhorrent that our fellow Americans were left without food and water for almost a week, huddled in the Superdome or on the roofs of floating houses.

In times of national disaster, the federal government has a role it must perform, quickly and well. It failed for too many days during Katrina and is now failing for weeks. Obama is making a more lasting mess than Bush did and once again New Orleans and its environs will suffer greatly.

Bush could have foreseen the devastation that the hurricane would bring, and prepositioned cell phone equipment, food and other medical supplies to rush them in wherever they were needed. He didn't. His administration reacted slowly but after a few days it got things moving. The disaster was contained but only after Bush had earned a reputation for incompetence.

The media is working feverishly to deflect the incompetence label from Obama, but the Obama administration's lackadaisical attitude toward minimizing the disaster makes that an impossible task.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig disaster happened on April 20. Two days later it was clear that a massive oil spill was occurring a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. It's been six weeks since then, and what has the Obama administration done? Well, not much.

The Obama administration has been holding meetings, making speeches and taking time from its vacation schedule to take tours of the Gulf Coast. (President Obama was there for a three-hour tour, but not on the SS Minnow with Gilligan.)

Where are the oil tankers skimming oil off the water as has been done in the Persian Gulf? Where are the "burn booms" to burn off much of the oil before it reaches shore? The Gulf Coast is suffering an ecological disaster from which it may not recover for decades.

Where are the guys and gals whom the president insists were on deck and on duty from Day 1? Team O isn't causing the oil to be mopped up, isn't erecting barriers to the oil fouling the coast. They are not chartering oil tankers or leasing burn booms. They are not mobilizing every available asset to mop up the oil. They are content to watch and leave it all to BP.

It's so bad that Hillary Clinton's 2012 campaign may be under way. James Carville, the Cajun conniver, has been airing some very harsh words at the Obama administration.

On CNN the other Sunday, Carville was fairly screaming Louisiana's inferiority complex. He declaimed that if the massive oil spill were happening in Nantucket, the whole federal government would be mobilized to protect the coast. He almost has a point.

The point Mr. Carville almost reaches is that while it's all well and good for Kenny Salazar and Janet Incompetano to proclaim that the government's boot is on British Petroleum's neck, that's irrelevant to the government's duty to protect the economy and the environment: getting done what must be done. Do whatever is possible to minimize the damage and send BP a bill for whatever it costs. But don't just sit on the sidelines and kibbitz.

Whether it's Obama or Pelosi, or Kenny and Janet and Chuckie Schumer, Americans are sick and tired of Washington pols who talk big and manage to spend trillions of dollars without getting what needs to be done, done.

Back in the bad old days of Katrina, I wrote that it was TACAMO time: the moment when the amateurs had to be pushed aside and those who have the expertise and skills to get the job done should Take Charge And Move Out.

I remember talking to a gent by the name of Bill Caldwell about four days into the crisis. At the time, Major General Caldwell was the commander of the 82nd Airborne. As I recall, he told me he got the word at about noon that he and his guys should head to New Orleans and by 5 p.m. he had about 3500 soldiers and their equipment in the air headed to the Big Easy. And at the risk of stating the obvious, Caldwell was in the lead aircraft.

This is TACAMO Time 2.0, but there's nobody home. Not in the White House, where the president is content to let BP run the show and second-guess them from the sidelines. Not in Louisiana, where Gov. Jindal isn't just telling Obama's incompetent White House to go to hell and going out and doing what needs to be done.

Jindal should take charge and move out. Because there's nobody home at the White House, saving his state's economy and environment, he should say, is a non-Prophet operation.

You're doing a heckuva job, Barry.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. You can follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin.