The public turned against George W. Bush with Hurricane Katrina. His response to the catastrophe was, like that of the state and local governments, disastrously inadequate. He showed how little he cared.
Now with the oil spill off Louisiana, President Obama is being similarly tested. Obama does care, but his response has been likewise insufficient.
Prior to the spill, pundits were urging us to drill for oil on American soil. Sarah Palin, as governor of Alaska, endorsed drilling in Arctic regions. Such drilling would not be environmentally safe under the present circumstances.
The Clean Air Act has been all but dismantled. And the “tort reforms” advocated by such politicians as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have limited the civil liability of oil companies. The industry has been given little incentive to safely drill or transport oil, or to develop effective procedures for cleanup in the event of a spill.
President Obama was wrong to assume that people in his government and BP would properly handle the current crisis. We can only hope he has learned from his mistake.
The Clean Air Act needs to be reinvigorated. The state and federal governments need to closely monitor the oil companies, and to motivate them toward safety with stiff prospective penalties.
The environment needs to become a priority.