Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 122- Katrina

Dear Mr. President,

The media stories comparing your response to the oil spill in the Gulf to the Bush administration's response to Katrina are starting to get to me. For one thing, I still find the mistreatment and neglect of American citizens by our own government in the face of an environmental disaster to be offensive; belittling the magnitude of this failure by constantly comparing it to other disasters makes a poor substitute for actual journalism. This crisis is distinct in many ways and the administration's response to it needs to be whatever is most suited to the unique demands of this situation, and not based on some artificial scale set by the previous administrations failures.

If there is any lesson to be had from the Bush administration, and especially their handling of Katrina, it ought to be that the President should be able to admit to mistakes. President Bush could have turned his failures into something more useful, had he been able to own up to being wrong. Instead, caught up in a desperate attempt to sell his administration as being right all the time, confusing decisiveness with gravitas, attempting to doublespeak his way through contradiction and hypocrisy when confronted with it, he alienated people and made each mistake seem even worse through his obvious insensitivity to it. This isn't the type of President that you've proven yourself to be.

The oil spill in the gulf should cause us to seriously re-evaluate a number of aspects of domestic policy. I think the decision to halt any new offshore drilling projects was a good one; I hope that it lasts longer than the media storm. I'm also hoping that the projections for the size and scope of the spill are wrong; if it is smaller and easier to fix than we fear, that will be a blessing to all of the lives and livelihoods threatened, and if that makes it more difficult to make the case against drilling for more oil, that's certainly a price I'm willing, and even eager, to pay. But I hope that the hysterical, worst-case scenarios being discussed right now are taken seriously, even if we are fortunate enough that they do not come to pass; they should serve as a wake-up call to this country about the hidden cost of cheap oil and the dangers of our current lifestyles.

I think that so far your response to this crisis has been appropriate given the information available. More importantly, you've long since proven that you're an engaged and capable leader who is willing to work through the challenges facing this country even when it is not politically expedient. I hope that you can also admit when your best intentions fail, when you make the wrong decisions, or when there simply wasn't enough information to act appropriately. It brings people together and reminds us all that being willing to adapt and learn from mistakes is more important than blindly and desperately insisting you've been right all along.

Respectfully yours,


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