Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In the News: America Magazine on Gulf Situation, Peter Daou on Obama's Defining Challenge

A smorgasbord of new online articles that have struck me for one reason or another.  And so I’d like to recommend them to readers.  The first two are about the Gulf disaster.

First, I’m struck by the conclusion to America magazine’s latest editorial, which addresses the situation in the Gulf of Mexico.  America’s editorialist parallels my own thinking about the ecological tragedy of the Gulf: as I noted recently, what seems particularly tragic about the destruction happening there is that we cannot ever calculate (and reverse) all the damage now occurring in a short period of time in this part of the globe.  A region whose abundant, precious wildlife Haitian artist John James Audubon catalogued with such loving care at the start of the 19th century is now irretrievably wounded—and we are all the losers.

America writes,

The deep ocean is not merely a difficult site from which to extract resources; it is part of a beautiful, breathtaking gift for all generations to share, preserve and pass on. We have failed in our responsibility as its stewards. An accounting wizard may someday tally up the cost of this oil spill and the cleanup to taxpayers, the fishing and tourist industries and the unfortunate residents of the Gulf states and deliver a comprehensive bill to BP executives. But no human can calculate the cost of the disaster to the marshes and the ocean and the wildlife, to God’s good creation. God may forgive us; our grandchildren may not be so merciful.

In Peter Daou’s view, the Gulf situation represents President Obama’s last chance to define his presidency as an effective, morally sound response to the morally impaired scorched-earth politics that have dominated American life and culture for several decades now.  Last July, Daou wrote,

In the end, Barack Obama's presidency will be defined by the extent to which he attempts to right America's (badly adrift) moral ship. Providing universal quality affordable health care is only a part of that process, albeit a significant one.

And now, as oil continues to pour forth in the Gulf and to destroy wildlife habitats both at sea and on land, along with irreplaceable fauna and flora, Daou writes:

From day one, the principled critique of Obama has come from the left. From gay rights to civil liberties to secrecy to the environment to Afghanistan and national security, progressive opinion-makers have gone after the administration for failing to fulfill its overarching purpose of being the anti-Bush, to reverse America's near-fatal, turn-of-the-millennium mistake, to restore sanity to a nation that temporarily lost it, to reinstate fealty and respect for its greatest values. Unfortunately, the president and his advisers have been far more solicitous of opponents on the right, treating progressives like a familial annoyance, a needless irritant.

In a blur of post-election elation, over-confidence, an extended campaign mindset, barely-suppressed scorn for the 'angry left' and a futile dream of post-partisanship, the White House has slowly and steadily allowed the unthinkable to happen: George W. Bush's image is improving. And genuine hope for a new progressive age is dying.

The link to Daou’s July 2009 essay is embedded in the article to which I’ve just directed readers.  I share Daou’s critique of the values-lite pragmatic centrism of this administration, which always tacks right while poking sticks in the eyes of the progressive voters it energized through its campaign promises of reform.

The illustration for the posting is an Audubon drawing of a brown pelican, an already endangered bird whose existence is now being made even more precarious by the Gulf oil spill.