By Rabbi Arthur Waskow / The Rag Blog / April 1, 2010

What’s with Obama?

The President has run true to form in his announcement of ending the moratorium on off-shore drilling in part of the Atlantic Coast.

Some reports suggest he did this in order to get Big Oil support for some version or other of the climate/energy bills before Congress. If so, it’s very like what he did in making private deals with Big Pharma and Big Insurance before the health-care bills came to the floor of either house.

By the time those deals were completed, the bills were compromised far short of what might have been possible with a full-throated fight. For example, it is now clear that a promise not to include the Public Option was part of the deal..

Yes, the final health care bill was a lot better than the status quo, and I supported its passage after efforts to strengthen it failed, but — why did the President go this route of preemptive compromise, and why do it again?

I have a theory about Mr. Obama that is partly psychological and partly political.

The psychological part is of course at a far distance. But I think it fits the public facts.

I think that at his deepest core, he is always trying to reconcile “Kansas” and “Kenya,” the two roots of his being.

I think he cannot bear to accept that some contradictions and oppositions are real — and must be fought out. The will-of-the-wisp of “bipartisanship” with a “party” that is dead set against him and against what his rhetoric might define as his desires is, I think, grounded in his deepest sense of himself.

After discovering that this wasn’t working to get even a half-way decent health bill, and after being pushed hard by Speaker Pelosi against the “baby bill” espoused by his carefully chosen chief of staff, he finally came out swinging. But only on behalf of a bill that had already been greatly narrowed by the earlier deals. (And notice that he didn’t fire the chief of staff.)

And only at the last second did he decide to mobilize the 13-million-address email list “Obama for America” to affect Congress, rather than depending on Rahm Emanuel’s inside-the Capitol-dome strategy.

And now the same pattern.

What is wrong with this off-shore drilling? First, it will do far less, at far greater cost, to make the U.S. less dependent on “foreign oil” than would a sweeping, energetic Presidential campaign for energy efficiency and conservation at every level of American life.

And far less to pass a good bill than would unleashing the email list.

Second, if the drilling ever gets done it will pose great dangers not only to natural beauty and the tourist income rooted in that beauty, but great dangers as well to the oceans and the earth. Oil drilling off the Louisiana coast had a great deal to do with destroying the wetlands that used to absorb huge amounts of rain, and thereby made the Katrina hurricane far more destructive.

These drills may be too far offshore to affect wetlands, but what will they do to the oceans? And what will the extra burning of this extra oil do to CO2 in the atmosphere, to the Interbreathing of all life that is encoded in God’s own Name of YHWH?

Third and most important, this decision will add to the profits and the power of Big Oil, which has been one of the worst opponents of doing anything serious to reduce the impact of global scorching and prevent climate disaster.

There is a political as well as psychological component to Obama’s behavior. Even if he is so desperately committed to “unifying” Kansas and Kenya as I have suggested, why are the deals always with Big Oil, Big Banking, Big Pharma, Big Coal, Big Health UNsurance?

Because these are the Big Powers of our political system. If a Green-Blue alliance of Labor and Environmentalists were as powerful as these Big Corporations, that is where he might have had to turn to satisfy his own need to “unify.”

So that leaves it to us. If you click here, you can send a letter to your Senators and Congressmembers to urge them to resist this give-away of our oceans, our earth. (Add your own words to our draft.)

Please also forward the Shalom Center message on oil drilling to your friends, co-workers, and congregants

More information on global scorching & energy policy is on our website home page — click on the Greem Menorah logo at the bottom of the right-hand column, or click here


Blessings of healing to you in affirmation of your efforts to heal our country and our planet.

Shalom, salaam, shantih – peace,
(Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center)

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