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May 12th, 2010
10:52 AM ET

Dear President Obama #478 "Slippery as oil"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/12/art.oil.testify.congress.jpg caption="Oil company executives testified before Congress yesterday about the Gulf oil spill."]
Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Congressional leaders are harrumphing over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, promising to get to the bottom of it and hold some folks accountable. I’ll wager they have a better chance of holding their breath and getting to the bottom of the Gulf itself. Ha! Here is my latest letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

You know that I am an optimistic sort. You know that I try to have faith in my government, the basic goodness of people, the integrity of business, and the idea that the guy on the corner might actually take that dollar to buy a sandwich instead of a beer. But I can tell you right now I have zero faith that all the companies involved in the Gulf oil spill will actually be held accountable before all of this is over.

It’s just not going to happen.

I was watching the Congressional hearings into the spill, and listening to all the company reps saying they want robust investigations, to live up to their responsibilities, and yadda yadda yadda; and I thought, “Yea, when pigs fly.” I know, I’m getting too cynical. But did you hear the rest of what they had to say? Despite insisting that no one should jump to any conclusions about what happened, each of the main companies involved could not resist adding, “Uh, but in the meantime…you know, those OTHER guys are probably the real culprits here.”

The oil well owner suggests the rig operator may have fouled up, and the rig operator says the owner was in charge and “What about the guys who built the wellhead?” and the wellhead builders say “We did our job right, and we were already out of there anyway, so take a look at the owner and the rig guys.” Round and round it goes.

I know the name of this game. I played Little League. Everyone circles under the ball yelling, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it!” and then dives out of the way before it conks one of them on the head.

If you want to know why so many people have so little faith in government these days, this is part of the reason: The persistent impression we get is that when people with big money make big mistakes sometimes they are caught and have to pay big, but only rarely. Most times Congressional hearings prove about as useful as a maraca player in the symphony. The rich get richer, and leave things like responsibility to us little folks. You can’t do anything about this, btw. I’m aware of that. Like a steam hole in the ocean floor, I’m just venting.

Hope all is well with you and yours otherwise. I noticed that you did not call last night. Was it something I said?

Regards,

Tom

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