According to a recent Gallup Poll, some 60% of the public believes that the federal government is doing a “poor” or “very poor” job in handling the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Why, then, would any sane individual support the idea of giving these same bumblers enhanced control of other key areas in our lives –like the health care industry, the car companies, or the banking system?
The looming environmental catastrophe not only reveals the hapless, flailing ineptitude of the Obama administration, but far more importantly demonstrates the limited ability of Washington itself to solve the big problems of American life. That’s why the oil spill presents such a painful predicament for Democrats everywhere—even those Democrats who have begun to question and criticize the president for his handling of the disaster. No, it’s not “Obama’s Katrina”—it’s actually much worse for his party and for his political philosophy.
Those who criticized the Bush administration after the Louisiana Hurricane blamed a reviled chief executive and some of his top deputies, trying to target individuals rather than institutions. Remember the obsession with the out-of-his-depth FEMA director Michael Brown (“You’re doing a heckuva a job, Brownie!”) –as if a different federal department head could have meaningfully reduced the suffering and devastation from an epochal natural disaster. As a matter of fact, it was the local officials (like New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco) who could have made the most significant difference, by ordering more timely evacuations and more comprehensive preparations. The Katrina experience may have discredited Bush as a public personality but it only reinforced the core conservative philosophy: that state and local governments can generally serve their constituents more nimbly and reliably than the faraway and often clumsy feds.
In a sense, the attempt by Obama’s apologists to blame the Bushies for the current misery also supports a conservative world view. Some of the slow-moving bureaucrats may indeed be holdovers from the previous administration but other important officials were hand-picked by Obama himself. In other words, the feeble federal response represents a bi-partisan failure – and an indictment of the bureaucracy itself rather than a single political party.