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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow A big spectacle that solves nothing

A big spectacle that solves nothing

The latest example of that peculiar brand of public spectacle that often ensues when Congress calls in some hapless capitalist to defend his company left us feeling rather soiled.

As if we’d been slathered with crude oil, come to that.

Surely it’s time to finally dispense with the charades that these committee hearings almost inevitably become.

Last week’s symbolic flogging of BP chief executive Tony Hayward by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on investigations did absolutely nothing to help solve the environmental and economic disaster that’s ongoing in the Gulf of Mexico.

But did anybody who has ever watched one of these legislative branch farces truly expect otherwise?

What the public wants and deserves — besides, of course, to cap the gusher — is to know whether BP’s documented corner-cutting on some of its drilling operations can be blamed, beyond any doubt, for the explosion that precipitated the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

But Hayward can’t yet answer that question.

And as things stand, neither can anyone else.

We’d rather that Hayward devote his time to getting answers rather than deflecting predictably inane questions from a group of lawmakers.

Not only were the questions obvious — so were Hayward’s answers.

Or non-answers.

We certainly didn’t need to convene a Congressional committee to understand that, regardless of the precise cause, BP is responsible for the spill.

It’s not as if the company is claiming sabotage, after all.

And if we want to indulge in BP’s Hallmark-worthy platitudes about how sorry it is, well we can watch the TV commercials or peruse the firm’s Web site. Not that the PR pros are any more convincing than Hayward is.

Of course the company feels badly. Besides the bad publicity and the plummeting stock value, those pesky pelicans, unlike drivers, don’t have credit cards to pay for petroleum.

Last week’s TV-friendly debacle in Washington, D.C., was not exclusively an excuse for a congressman to get in a round of constituent-pleasing flagellation of an egregious polluter.

We were treated as well to the even more pitiful sight of Rep. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican, crying Hayward’s pardon for the “shakedown” his company underwent at the White House.

The least Barton could have done is to pawn off his apology on some other Republican — one who, unlike Barton, is not the biggest recipient of campaign money from the oil and gas industry.

President Obama need not apologize for cajoling at least $20 billion out of BP.

It’s not as if the president stole the company’s identity.

BP’s going to pay for this mess one way or another, and we’re pleased to at least have a solid downpayment on the books.

In the meantime, Congress, unless it has legitimate business in this matter, ought to butt out.

We’re certain that Louisiana shrimpers and Mississippi beach resort workers are looking for compensation rather more valuable than the sight of a brief grimace crossing the visage of a Big Oil titan.

Hayward’s regret won’t pay anybody’s mortgage.

 
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