June 2, 2010
Team Obama's 'Real Time' Bureaucracy
Yesterday, the White House director of Energy and Climate Change Policy, Carol Browner, assured "Fox and Friends" host Gretchen Carlson that the Obama administration was "making decisions in real time" regarding the Gulf of Mexico oil leak. Browner further appeased Carlson by insisting that Team Obama had been on the leak "since day one" and that any complaints of government beadledom were unfounded. "There is no bureaucracy here," said Browner.
The Energy Czarina went on to highlight two names from the "best minds in America" club that we keep hearing about in reference to stopping the British Petroleum (BP) gusher: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Contrary to Browner's insistence, the government players involved in the Gulf oil crisis have no track record of making real-time decisions, have been thoroughly taken to task for not being on the case since day one, and have been mired in mind-numbing bureaucracy. This is because the White House and its West Wing are packed to the rafters with lawyers, politicians, and academics. These are the type of people associated with paper-shuffling, assembling blue-ribbon committees, holding hearings, and filing lawsuits -- not getting things done in "real time."
Just for confirmation, let's check the Curriculum Vitae of some of the honchos running field ops for Team Obama.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar worked as a private attorney for a few years before going to work for Colorado Governor Roy Romer in 1986. Salazar has been in government work ever since, first as Colorado's Attorney General, then as a U.S. congressman, and now as head of Interior. Not the kind of resume that would imply the ability to commandeer the stoppage of a 5,000-barrel-a-day oil leak in real time.
Next we have Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Without question, Dr. Chu is a brilliant academic, and a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics for the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. However, academicians like Chu aren't beholden by real time, either. They crave mental environments laden with deep theory and void of the stresses involved in bringing products to market. Even though Secretary Chu has had some personal interaction with British Petroleum via a grant proposal he once submitted to the oil giant (while at the University of California-Berkeley, he received the winning bid for a $500-million grant funded by BP), folks in the know tell me grant-writing works on a Gregorian calendar -- not in "real time."
We can't forget Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security. She began her career as an attorney in private practice and first came on the national scene as a lawyer for Anita Hill, who claimed to have been sexually harassed by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Napolitano went on to become a U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration, and then Governor of Arizona. We all pray that as Secretary of Homeland Security, she is capable of real-time decision-making, but given recent breaches of security, some might say she is getting by on more luck than executive real-time resolve.
And then there is Carol Browner. She too is a lawyer who has either been on a government or not-for-profit payroll most of her life, including managing Senator Al Gore's legislative staff in the eighties and administering the Environmental Protection Agency in the nineties. Her brush with real-time decision-making may be limited to her partnership in the Albright Group consulting firm, which was the central figure in the 2006 attempt by Dubai Ports (based in the United Arab Emirates) to purchase key businesses located at U.S. ports. In that case, a real-time decision was made by a House panel to block the highly controversial deal from going through.
Finally, there's the man at the top of the government food chain: President Obama. Other than a brief stint as a private attorney, he's never known anything but not-for-profits, academia, and government work. And in keeping with that bureaucratic mindset, Mr. O came out yesterday vowing a "full and vigorous accounting" of the causes of the oil spill and unveiling a new commission he created that will pursue the trail of blame without limits.
"They have my full support to follow the facts wherever they may lead, without fear or favor," Obama said in the Rose Garden after meeting with the co-chairmen of the commission, former Florida senator and governor Bob Graham and former EPA administrator William Reilly.
The President promised that the six-month review by the commission will focus on "a comprehensive look at how the oil and gas industry operates and how our government oversees those operations." He hinted that future support for new oil drilling in the deep waters off the coast would be contingent on what the commission finds.
Pardon me, Ms. Browner, but this sounds like a load of finger-pointing, politicking "bureaucracy" here.
Attention Team O: Do this the way real-time, non-bureaucratic organizations would conduct critical business. Provide BP with all of the resources they need to fix the immediate problem at hand, and then -- when the problem is solved -- conduct a civil post-mortem to determine why the problem occurred and how to make sure it never happens again.
Brian Sussman is author of the new bestselling book, Climategate: a veteran meteorologist exposes the global warming scam, and host of the morning show on KSFO-AM in San Francisco.