I listened to the president’s Oval Office address last night. Underwhelmed? Are you kidding me, I was almost  completely without whelm. My blogfriend Moe expressed a similar reaction, and I told her that he sounded about as emphatic as if he were announcing a Labor Department undersecretary appointment.

What’s more, I have been bracing myself for his meeting today with BP leaders in the White House. I was worried how it would play out, especially perceptually. The most powerful man in the known universe resorting to what would look like peer-to-peer negotations with the BP gangstas? Ugggh. For the life of me, I do not remember the management team of Babcock and Wilcox, or General Public Utilities, or Metropolitan Edison, traipsing up to the White House for lunch with President Carter in 1979.

The next misfortune came on my way to the office this morning. Glenn Beck is cackling it up with whoever the sidekick is, and gleefully reporting polling from Louisiana that showed opinion of the president’s handling of the Gulf Coast crisis running almost two-to-one against, while opinion of Gov. Jindal’s handling of it was running almost two-to-one in support. I was thinking how weird that is — I am pretty sure neither president nor governor had plugged the leak; neither had prevented oil from reaching land; neither had satisfactorily deployed an army in eco-defense. Apparently, at least a third of the respondents of that poll didn’t much care that neither leader had made much of an observable difference, but chose to give high marks to Jindal and low marks to Obama nonetheless. Another big uggggh.

Fast forward to about 12:15 p.m., and my iPhone buzzes with a CNN bulletin that the White House had gotten BP to agree to set aside $20 billion to pay claims related to this disaster. And, the fund is to be administered outside of BP. Seriously? Game change! There is nothing like this in the history of private enterprise. Not of this magnitude, certainly.

Think of all the comparable instances where the culpable company had to be run through the litigation grinder, seeking every step of the way to minimize its financial exposure. Exxon certainly did with the Valdez. Union Carbide did with Bhopal. Johns Manville with asbestos. Tobacco companies with product liability. Besides the money eventually awarded and paid grudgingly if at all, about the only good thing to come from the whole excruciating litigation process was the movie Erin Brockovich.

I know that this does not circumvent ligitation. There still will be plenty of that to go around. I also know that damages could exceed $20 billion, or even that we still could hit rough spots on the road to finalizing this arrangement. But this absolutely will get many more dollars, much faster, much less contentiously, into the right peoples’ pockets. It is a phenomenal, unprecedented achievement for any president in times like these. Remind me again, how much non-taxpayer money has Bobby Jindal secured to make whole those who have been damaged by this disaster? Oh. Yeah. Right. I remember now.

I take it all back, Mr. President. I am sorry I doubted. You did great. And millions of people need to line up to shake your hand and thank you. And quite a few Louisianans who responded to those polls need to apologize. I won’t even say out loud what Glenn Beck should do.

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