Obama and the Oil Spill: The Things You Can't Fix

The president said all the right words in his speech, but nothing matters until the hole is plugged.

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And lay it out he did, a war on an ocean of uncontained light Louisiana crude. "Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf," the president said. "And I have authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, clean beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims -- and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible."

The unanswered question is whether he can keep the Gulf disaster from contaminating his presidency the way it is defiling the Gulf of Mexico. On Tuesday, he took the opportunity to talk about our addiction to oil and the need for a new energy policy; but legislative proposals, as important as they are, seemed insufficient to the moment; a modest policy/political response to a monumental disaster

American energy policy is a complicated and contentious issue, and the Gulf spill only makes it more so. We can go to war against the oil spill, or go to war on each other about the future of our energy consumption. We can be angry or not; we can be in charge or not, but until we plug the damn hole, none of the rest of it will matter much.

Terence Samuel is The Root's editor-at-large. His first book, The Upper House: A Journey Behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate, was released last month. Follow him on Twitter.

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