Excerpts from Obama’s Oil-and-Water speech yesterday in New Orleans…
What is striking about today’s debate about oil and water mixing in the Gulf of Mexico is the degree to which it remains rooted in the culture wars of the 1960s – in arguments that go back forty years or more.
In the early years of the environmental movement and opposition to the offshore drilling, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned the wisdom of Big Oil of being hippy tree-huggers.
Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of corporate America itself – by defacing Exxon signs; by blaming Shell Oil for all that was wrong with the world; and perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor the CEO’s who enrich us all by enriching themselves.
Most Americans never bought into these simplistic world-views – these caricatures of left and right. Most Americans understood that concern for the environment does not make you a hippy tree-hugger, and that there is nothing smart or sophisticated about a cynical disregard for America’s corporate hierarchy.
And yet the anger and turmoil of that period never entirely drained away. All too often our politics still seems trapped in these old, threadbare arguments – a fact most evident during our recent debates about oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, when those who opposed offshore drilling were tagged by some as eco-freaks, and a corporation providing its full resources to shut down the leak was accused of criminal negligence.
Given the enormous challenges that lie before us, we can no longer afford these sorts of divisions.