Tomorrow night on national television, the President, we are told, will assert his command and control over the horror now taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. I wish him well. The American people need to be told with great conviction and full authority that the interests of our people, of our land here in North America, are not at the disposal of the British Petroleum company. We are not some weak, defenseless land, which a modern industrialized corporation can enter, exploit for gain, and then leave behind, hurt and broken in its wake. So, at minimum, I’d like the president to state that we are a united people, concerned about our gift of this land. We refuse to let North America become a casualty to the bad management, the risk-taking, and the economic ruthlessness of those seeking private profit, wherever they are based. Most Americans believe that BP is calling the shots on every aspect of this matter, just as they did in causing it. So the question comes down to what powers the President can wield here and how he should wield them. What resources exist to cap the hole and to clean up the oil spreading into the Gulf and hitting the shore? What command does the president have over those resources – such as oil tankers and equipment to skim the oil from the water, to drain it from the depths of the Gulf, and to restore the shoreline and wetlands? These are the questions. What powers does he have over the private sector, using all of the agencies of the federal government (Interior, Homeland Security, Commerce, and the Treasury)? What powers does he have, and how can he leverage them to save the Gulf for posterity? Truman went after the coal miners and got them mining. Kennedy went after Big Steel and got them to roll back prices. Neither president worked off of the short list of presidential powers; both thought outside the box and let the perpetrator in each case know that they were willing to do whatever necessary. That goes beyond filing some “amicus brief” down the road on behalf of those who will be hurt by the spill. Some NGO can do that. Any well-intentioned soul can do that. The question on the White House desk tomorrow night is: What can a strong, daring President of the United States do? President Obama has been dealt a bad hand. As our president, he needs to find some way to win it.
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