Scratching my head

June 22, 2010 2:08:48 PM PDT
Maybe I'm just too thick to comprehend the meaning of current events. But two heavyweight stories tonight have me scratching my head and wondering how I ended up living alongside Alice in Wonderland.

Let's start with the federal court ruling from New Orleans overturning Pres. Obama's moratorium on new deepwater oil drilling projects and the suspension of drilling in 33 wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

The judge labeled the decision to stop drilling "arbitrary and capricious."

I'm trying to wrap my head around this. Has the judge not been informed of the small oil leak at the BP rig in the Gulf? Maybe no one told him that more than 60,000 barrels a day or 35,000 or 100,000, we just don't know, clearly is spilling into the Gulf, and BP hasn't yet figured out how to stop it. And maybe no one pointed out that the environmental damage could be counted by decades.

Or could it be that the judge a Reagan appointee named Martin L.C. Feldman had or has financial interests in oil and gas companies? Turns out he had, at least according to a 2008 financial disclosure statement, holdings in at least one company whose equipment was involved in the BP explosion.

Sure the oil peeps have been thrown out of work but so too have all the fishermen and women, and the tourism-dependent folks, all because the gushing oil is ruining their industries.

The hard truth is that BP didn't have a fail-safe plan, or a back-up plan, or any idea beforehand how to deal with a potential catastrophe. How are we to trust the other oil companies that they have a worst-case scenario emergency plan?

The American Petroleum Institute immediately praised the judge's ruling, saying, in essence, trust us, we've made adjustments and we know what we're doing.

BP said it knew what it was doing as well, and look what that got us.

The White House says it's going to appeal, but, for right now, the moratorium has been lifted. And now people up and down the East Coast especially off the shore in New Jersey, would do well to look eastward and visualize giant rigs out there. Because that could now happen.

We'll have the latest on the ruling, and any local impact, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, and the other head-scratching story out there, we'll have the latest on the exploding brouhaha over the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The upcoming issue of Rolling Stone quotes the General and some of his aides as having contempt for Pres. Obama, his strategy in Afghanistan, and for several of the Administration's top foreign policy advisors. There's no shortage of mocking by the military men in the article.

It is unclear whether McChrystal, who has apologized for his comments, will survive this controversy. Others in his position who have criticized their Presidents have not survived. And there's word tonight that there's an intense debate right now at the White House whether to fire the General. It's entirely conceivable as well that the General may have or will tender his resignation, as a matter of procedure.

The White House press secretary today questioned McChrystal's capability and maturity to do the job in Afghanistan ? not a good sign of confidence from the President. But we'll see; Mr. Obama meets with the General tomorrow after he was summoned to the White House from Afghanistan to discuss his comments.

No question, this is a big story. Military brass mocking civilian leaders smacks of "7 Days in May" kind of thinking, where the military tries to take over the government. And there's an unspoken code that the military just does its job, carrying out civilian policy.

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But there's another story here, and it's been overwhelmed by the violation of protocol: This is, at its heart, a story about policy, and whether the President's plan in Afghanistan is working. Clearly, the military's top man there doesn't think so. And many people pleaded with Mr. Obama not to escalate the war in a country where no outsider has ever been victorious.

That part of the story is largely being ignored. And it's a shame. Because while the process part of the story is important, the policy part of the story is equally important. And if the President's strategy is flawed (and the war so far hasn't exactly been successful)? and the chances of withdrawal a year from right now seems less likely, then critics say it's time to reconsider the strategy his summer.

Oh and one other good-for-democracy note (not) regarding this story. Soldiers' access to the Rolling Stone article has reportedly been blocked on bases in Afghanistan.

We'll have the latest on the war and the flap with McChrystal, tonight at 11.

We're also following a story about a dog, flying here in the cargo bay of a Continental plane from Houston, managed to bite her way out of her cage. So when the plane landed at LaGuardia Airport, and the crew opened the cargo hold, the dog bolted. She then ran around on the runway, and then jumped into Flushing Bay. The owner says she's a good swimmer. Indeed, because the NYPD harbor patrol eventually caught the dog 4 miles away in the bay!

The owner and dog have been reunited.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11. BILL RITTER

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