Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Miracle Worker

Some Americans may choose to vest their presidents with god-like powers. But the gulf spill reminds us that they aren't gods -- not even close -- and that's not such a bad thing, in my book.

The president-as-miracle-worker cult is out in force, demanding that Barack Obama single-handedly cap a deep water oil gusher, prevent the discharge from making landfall and scrub those oil-soaked pelicans clean -- all while defusing Mideast tensions and turning around the economy. He won't even need a helicopter to inspect the disaster site; he can just walk there on water.

But truth is, Obama and the vast federal machinery at his disposal are largely powerless to step in and stop the disaster, posture as he might about being in charge. If engineers at one of the top oil companies in the world can't fashion a fix, what makes Americans believe that some desk-riding paper-shuffler at the Department of Energy or Department of Interior can do so? Calls have been heard for Obama to take over the operation from BP, as if Washington has a fleet of oil gusher-fighting submersibles standing at the ready, which can dive down there on a day's notice and get the situation squared away, no fuss no muss. That's all a pipe dream.

The non-military part of the federal government doesn't actually do much of anything, except get in the way of, and exercise authority over, the actual doers. The bureaucrats can issue a deep water oil lease, or (in most cases) not issue one, but the incredible skills and engineering it takes to extract oil from the ocean floor is a feat that only people in the private sector -- only The Doers -- have the skills and know-how to perform.

Do The Doers perform flawlessly? Obviously not. They are human too. But without The Doers, where would the country be? All the federal overseers can do is stand around, like sidewalk supervisors, acting official and further complicating an already complex endeavor.

Americans who imagine anything different -- Americans who place their faith in the all-powerful president and the competent federal official -- have seen too many action flicks and TV shows.

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