There’s an argument to be made, but this isn’t it

THERE’S AN ARGUMENT TO BE MADE, BUT THIS ISN’T IT…. Time magazine names its “Dirty Dozen” in its new issue, making the case for who’s to blame for the BP oil spill disaster. The top of the list is pretty straightforward — #1 is former BP CEO John Browne, and #2 is current BP CEO Tony Hayward. Sounds about right.

Time puts Dick Cheney at #5 and George W. Bush at #6, which sounds about right, and singles out “The American Driver” at #7 — if we used less oil, the argument goes, we’d need less drilling.

The magazine’s blame-list puts President Obama at #8, and here’s the explanation as to how Time reached that conclusion.

His Administration has now begun strengthening federal oversight of offshore drilling, but the President also proposed opening vast new tracts for such production shortly before Deepwater Horizon exploded.

Clearly, the president is not beyond reproach. One can make the case — indeed, Obama has made the case — that the administration could have moved even faster to address Bush-era corruption at the MMS and improve government regulations. But it almost certainly wouldn’t have prevented this disaster.

And that’s why Time‘s item seems so misplaced. The point of the “Dirty Dozen” is to assign blame for this mess. There’s no ambiguity — the feature piece says right in the headline that the point is to identify “who to blame for the oil spill.”

With that in mind, why does expanded production have to do with the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe? Whether the administration had agreed to new drilling opportunities or not had no bearing on the explosion and subsequent crisis. They’re related to the extent that both deal with drilling, but if the point to assign blame, one has nothing to do with the other.

As Matt Gertz put it, “If someone has a plausible argument for why Obama proposing an expansion of offshore drilling on March 31 makes him at fault for an oil spill that began on April 20, I’d really like to hear it. The Deepwater Horizon rig was ‘placed into service’ in 2001 and finished drilling the well in question in September 2009. Unless Obama’s announcement triggered weeks of drunken partying on the rig which caused its destruction (somewhat unlikely), Time’s commentary doesn’t really hold water.”