Joseph C. Phillips

In the event of a major spill, federal responders had pre-approval to begin burning oil. They waited more than a week before doing a test-burn and then stopped. Experts have suggested that had the burning begun right away, 90% of the oil could have been burned away before it spread.

Thirteen countries have offered the United States the advantage of their technical skills. To date, the Obama administration has declined to take advantage of all of this experience and expertise.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delayed the building of protective sand-berms until they could study the issue. The administration finally approved six berms, but only agreed to pay for one of them. Government officials say they want to first see if they work. Of course, by that time building more berms won’t do any good.

Two months into the crisis, Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. official in charge of the Gulf of Mexico crisis, (or is he?), is still talking about asking Congress for a waiver of the Jones Act, which would allow foreign vessels involved in the crisis to operate in American waters. However, that may not do much good. Louisiana boat owners who have volunteered to aid in clean-up efforts are complaining that bureaucratic red-tape is keeping them out of the water.

On a positive note, the president did create another government commission.

Leadership of the statesman variety--as opposed to the shirtsleeves and furrowed-brow-look-of-concern variety--would have the president with a large pair of scissors cutting through the red tape. A leader scours the private sector for the most knowledgeable folks he can find and asks for their help. He gets on the phone with our allies and says, “Yes! Please send me your experts!” He says to the governors of the Gulf States, “Tell me what you need.” Leadership is putting aside political agendas and mobilizing the power of the executive office in order to solve an immediate crisis.

Leadership doesn’t always need big speeches or street corner bravado. Leadership can be quiet; it can be cool and determined. But if it isn’t focused and it isn’t active, it ain’t worth the price of admission to a “Spike Lee Joint.”

Joseph C. Phillips

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.