Sunday, May 9, 2010

No fodder for the GOP

By Don Klein

George W. Bush liked to be portrayed as a warrior president yet during the last four years of his dominance in Washington the Taliban regained power in Afghanistan and its cousins, the Taliban in northern Pakistan, solidified their hold on Waziristan territory.

In contrast, Barack Obama, who the GOP painted as being soft on national security, stepped up the battle with the Taliban by sending more troops to Afghanistan and more drone attacks in Waziristan where American troops were barred by Pakistan. Both appear to be impeding the hostiles. Obama changed the tide of warfare in just one year.

During the early days of the Bush era, Dick Cheney sat down behind closed doors and put together a super secret energy policy with heads of energy corporations. The meetings were sub-rosa and no one outside this group ever learned what deals were made, if any. Now we discover that safety regulations were modified in favor of business.

If I were a Republican leader I wouldn’t be criticizing President Obama for such preventable happenings as the oil spill off the Gulf states or, for that matter, the Times Square car bomb attempt. Both arguments could backfire on them.

Sniveling about the lack of speed in reaction to the British Petroleum spill is tantamount to a skunk complaining about the odor of an alley cat. Everyone still remembers when their man was in the White House during Katrina he refused to interrupt his Texas vacation for four days while New Orleans citizens died in the streets.

Grass roots Republicans are ill-served by most of current leaders who seem to think the only way they can make points with voters is by twisting every incident during the Obama years into harsh criticism. Remember the story about the boy who cried wolf?

The more the GOP gang cries out, the less people believe them. Especially when they employ weak arguments.

There is a credibility limit. Most importantly both the oil spill and the scotched New York bombing have a history that relates badly for Republicans who genuflected at the foot of the Bush Administration, that did just about every thing wrong. We are paying the price for those failures these days.

Let’s take the oil spill first. Think back to the early days of the Bush Administration and the behavior of his vice president. Cheney, the former head of the Halliburton oil empire, loosened many regulations demanded by big oil. He had always been a shill for the oil companies offering them sweetheart contracts starting when he was secretary of defense.

To make a point, if offshore drilling is to be safe there should have been the equivalent of a deadman switch, which would have automatically stopped the flow of crude if workers in the tower were unable to shut it down.

It is hard to understand why the oil companies would not have installed such a device which is required at their European deep sea rigs. It would be a lot cheaper than paying damages in the wake of a massive oil spill. But businessmen are always quick to spot ways of cutting costs to increase profits.

If these automatic cutoffs were installed at BP’s gulf equipage, there would be no threat today to wild life, the economy and the seashore of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

The cockeyed notion expressed by Michael Brown, discredited Bush FEMA head, that Obama is deviously thrilled about the spill because it now gives him reason to halt drilling after he had approved it just months ago, sounds a bit like Alice’s favorite Mad Hatter on the loose.

"This president has never supported Big Oil, he’s never supported offshore drilling and now he’s got an excuse to shut it back down." Brown said, "This is exactly what they want because now he can pander to the environmentalists and say, I’m going to shut it down because it’s too dangerous."

If you want to hear adults acting like conspiratorial children just tune in on House Minority Leader John Boehner, his No. 2, Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. Mike Pence, all chirping away as if Obama is behind the spill which in reality happened because Cheney allowed Big Oil to avoid installing automatic cutoffs.

Now let’s talk about Faisal Shahzad, the disgruntled Pakistan-born naturalized American citizen who was so incompetent or nervous he failed to set off a bomb in Times Square. He was arrested two days and five hours after the bomb was discovered and faces numerous criminal charges.

Shahzad reportedly became a militant because he objected to US drone attacks on Pakistan insurgent hideouts, killing many. During a visit to Pakistan he was indoctrinated in terrorism and sent back to the US to wreak havoc.

It turns out the impetus for this attack was the effectiveness of increased US drone activity approved by Obama in contrast to the inept undertakings by Bush to contain Taliban belligerents.

How come sad sack Shahzad got the Times Square assignment that failed so miserably? The consensus is the Taliban is so decimated by the drones, they have few skilled operatives left to carry out their terror, thanks to Obama’s policies.

The Republicans say that we were lucky in the Times Square case, but others could conclude that it was success in destroying terror hideouts overseas that resulted in an incompetent getting the bombing mission here. It’s an axiom that winners make their own luck. That seems to be the case.

It would be prudent for the GOP to stop criticizing the president -- at least on these two matters – if only to avoid being tarred with their own brush. But there is something unique about the current breed of Republicans. They are slow learners and no doubt will entrap themselves in continued foolishness.