As Fox News and the right-wing media continue their endless attacks on President Obama over his handling of the oil spill, they have elevated Gov. Bobby Jindal as the real leader of this crisis. Eric Bolling's comments on Fox News this morning were pretty typical:
BOLLING: Here's what they should do. Forget BP. Forget the government. What should happen is BP should open their checkbook up hand it over to Gov. Bobby Jindal and let him fix this problem. He's the only one with a clue. He's the only one doing anything. And the government should say, hey, you know what Governor, your boot's on the ground. You're there. You know what you're doing. We're gonna bypass all these permits that you need to have to build your sand booms and your sand berms and stop the oil from hitting land. Period.
And here was Mike Huckabee this morning on Fox & Friends Saturday:
HUCKABEE: Here's what he [Obama] needed to have done. First, immediately go, show presence and identity with the people of the Gulf Coast. More importantly, with the leaders of the Gulf Coast ... Turn the governors loose. Bobby Jindal knows what he needs to be doing. They told him he couldn't build the sand berms because we hadn't done an environmental impact. Well, guess what, sand is a less environmental impact than oil. Let him put the sand ... And sent the Corps of Engineers in.
Bolling and Huckabee apparently missed the memo, because Jindal said on Wednesday that the federal government did approve his plan to build miles of sand barriers and that they would require BP to pay for it.
But Jindal is not being praised by Fox News because of the specifics of his sand berms plan, as the quotes from Bolling and Huckabee make clear. Rather, he has become a media darling because of his criticism of the federal government's handling of the situation. Plain and simple.
Of course there's a great bit of irony here. As Jindal and the conservative media criticize the federal government for not deploying enough resources, they seem to overlook that they are the same ones who have championed the private sector over the public sector. Jindal himself just over a year ago said, “There has never been a challenge that the American people, with as little interference as possible by the federal government, cannot handle.”
In this case, the private sector clearly caused the greatest ecological disaster in the history of the United States. But the private sector cannot clean up its own mess. Further, the states, including Louisiana, clearly cannot solve the crisis on their own.
As Mother Jones' Josh Harkinson noted:
In February, 2006, while serving as a member of the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives, Jindal introduced the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act. Passed by the House a few months later, the bill would have opened up the entire US coast to offshore oil drilling. States could override the law and ban rigs in their territorial waters, yet the law would let them share lease royalties with the federal government--a strong incentive to drill. Adjacent states would have little say in the matter (clearly a problem, given that BP's spill has marred several states' coastlines). On the risks of deepwater drilling, the text of Jindal's bill is comically pollyannaish:
(4) it is not reasonably foreseeable that . . . development and production of an oil discovery located more than 50 miles seaward of the coastline will adversely affect resources near the coastline.
(BP's Deepwater Horizon rig is located 50 miles from the coast, and of course would have devastated the Gulf even if it was further out to sea).
Jindal's criticism of Obama's temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf also doesn't pass the smell test. Drilling has been suspended at 33 previously permitted deepwater drilling rigs and Jindal -- whose campaign coffers are loaded with contributions from all sorts of oil and energy-related companies -- says he is concerned about the jobs that might be lost. He urged the federal government to “move quickly to ensure that all deepwater drilling is in proper compliance with federal regulation and is conducted safely so that energy production and more importantly, thousands of jobs, are not in limbo.” But the government -- and the private sector -- haven't even been able to stop the oil spewing forth from the Deepwater Horizon spill yet, much less determine what steps need to be taken to prevent a similar catastrophe at one of the other 33 rigs. After all, as the Huffington Post reported, two of those 33 are under BP leases and two are operating under leases controlled jointly by BP and Devon.
Jindal is certainly at the forefront of the conservative media campaign to discredit the ability of the Obama campaign to deal with the oil spill. But Jindal and the media conservatives will never be able to escape the fact that spills like this are bound to happen with more and more offshore drilling. Nor can they escape the fact that this ecological disaster is the consequence of the private sector's inability to clean up its own mess.
*This post has been edited for clarity.