For the left, no crisis is too terrible to go unused. So it is with the horrific suffering that has taken place in Japan.
The President himself was the first to swing into action. Having already planned a nationally televised news conference to respond to high gas prices, Obama saw an opportunity to increase his viewership by advertising his appearance as a response to the Japanese earthquake instead. The first few minutes of the address were, in fact, directed to events in Japan, with the usual professions of sympathy and promises of swift American aid. But not five minutes into the speech, the President swung into campaign mode.
From then on, it was a defense of the administration's energy policy, blaming high gas prices on events beyond its control. "Rising [gas] prices are not a new phenomenon," he declared. They go back to the Bush administration. Rising gas prices also reflect an economy that has "picked up steam" since we got rid of Bush. And even if prices keep going up, the administration is prepared to deal with it -- not by allowing for the production of more oil but by draining oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve so we won't have the reserves needed in case of a real emergency.
Then the President proceeded to take credit for record levels of domestic oil and gas production in 2009, the year in which he was inaugurated. The last I heard, oil and gas drilling has a lead time of at least five years, with exploration, leasing, licensing, and actual production taking as long as twenty years. Yet Obama suggests he had something to do with 2009 production levels? What he has done, with his Gulf drilling ban and restrictions on East Coast and Alaska drilling, is to set future U.S. oil and gas production back by years.
The President's entire energy policy has been predicated on driving gas prices to $10 a gallon. Now that we're moving in that direction, the public is not happy about it. So the President prevaricates and makes excuses. Just go out and buy a Volt, he suggested in his news conference. As if most Americans have that kind of money to blow on an electrified Chevy Cobalt (which is built on the same platform as the Volt). You can buy the Cobalt for $15K -- the Volt runs about $45K with taxes and delivery, before subsidies kick in. I guess Obama hasn't had to shop for a new car lately.
The President's March 11 remarks are not what one would expect at a time when a close American ally has suffered a major disaster. But there was something revealing in the President's response. It was filled with expressions, at least at the onset, of heartfelt sympathy, but it was not heartfelt. At a moment when entire communities have been swept away, when nurseries and nursing homes and hospitals have been obliterated by a horrific wall of debris smothering everything in its path, Obama seemed focused only on himself. The horror of the situation did not seem to faze him. He was too busy refuting his critics, too eager (once again) to lay out grandiose plans for the green energy future, too full of himself and his own reelection campaign.
Against the background of chilling photos and reports coming out of Japan, the President's remarks were nothing less than selfish. And in this, the President was joined by the liberal media.
On March 14, NBC's Today show headlined its quake coverage with a lengthy discussion of the situation at Japan's nuclear plants, especially that at Daiichi Fukushima. Or, we should say, a purported discussion of the situation at the plants. In fact, Today marched out two "experts" from the left-leaning Union of Concerned Scientists and Institute for Policy Studies.
Those who are familiar with these groups can predict more or less what was said. In a separate appearance on the NBC Nightly News, Edward Lyman of UCS stressed the ominous situation in Japan while at the same time stressing that "it can happen here." The "safety bar is set too low," Lyman insisted. We need more restrictions -- presumably the sort that would slow down further nuclear power development or shut it down entirely.
Suddenly, the media was full of the "worse than Three Mile Island" scenario -- the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl. Come to think of it, has there been a nuclear "catastrophe" since Chernobyl? Is the situation in Japan, however serious it may be, a Chernobyl-scale accident? Not likely, but the media seems to be licking its lips, hoping it will come close.
For his part, Robert Alvarez of IPS ranked the current situation at Daiichi as a "five or six" on a one-to-seven scale, though he did not supply evidence for his ranking. (The Japanese government was ranking it at the time as a four.) Alvarez said that the "events are unprecedented" and characterized efforts to control the situation as a "Hail Mary option."
Do the experts at UCS and ISP have access to information that is unavailable to the rest of us -- unavailable, in fact, to the Japanese government and to those scientists on site at Daiichi? If so, they would do well to make it known. In reality, one suspects that their doomsday predictions are based to a great extent on antipathy toward nuclear power development and, beyond that, a broader opposition to economic expansion and growth of any kind, at least within the Western democracies. This, after all, seems to be more or less the stated mission of ISP: to oppose American hegemony, to hobble American military power, and to spread the wealth and equalize incomes both at home and abroad.
What is troubling about the President's speech and the response of the mainstream networks covering the disaster is their willingness to exploit human suffering for their ideological purposes. Troubling, but not surprising, since the left has been exploiting suffering for as long as anyone can remember. But to exploit the deaths of ten thousand innocent human beings and the continuing suffering of a half million homeless individuals is truly callous. When the left says that no crisis should be allowed to go to waste, it means what it says.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and article on American culture.