Thursday, May 27, 2010

In a Completely Unrelated Story...

Liz Birnbaum has left her position as head of the Minerals Management Services, the government entity that is supposed to oversee offshore oil drilling. In the light of recent controversies surrounding the agency, this seems like a good move.

Whether it is...that's another story. It's entirely possible that Birnbaum's departure is a ruse. After all, much of the controversy surrounding the MMS occurred before her tenure, so why would she voluntarily leave without a fight?

Simple. She's the first government scapegoat.

As oil has been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, public confidence in the Obama Administration's ability to address the spill has also been leaking. With each passing day, people question whether the Administration is capable of anything more than blaming BP and telling the public not in so many words that the government is incompetent. (Of course, I could have told you that for free...)

Given that situation, and knowing how Obama operates, I'm convinced that he was looking for someone who would be willing to take the fall for the Gulf oil spill, while being far enough removed from the Administration as to not create more blowback than necessary. Birnbaum fits the bill perfectly. It was her agency that was supposed to keep a regulatory eye on offshore oil drilling and failed, and few outside of the policy wonks and power players in Washington, DC, have even heard of her.

Thus, a scapegoat is born.

However, if the Obama Administration and its allies think Birnbaum's departure fixes the problem even temporarily, they're sadly mistaken. The Administration's window of opportunity to address the oil spill in a meaningful way closed a long time ago. Now, all they're doing is trying to put a Band Aid on a gushing chest wound.

Or would that be a gushing oil spill?

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