Congress is performing its requisite role on the nation's worst environmental disaster. Congressmen from both sides of the political divide attack BP with a certain resolute and earnest energy that plays well for the cameras, and may provide some traction with the folks back home. For the long term, this circus in Washington is actually dropping the ball on behalf of America.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), led the charge with repeated accusations and other attempts to extract a response from BP's CEO, Tony Hayward. With his company's stock trading at about $31, well below half of the high it once enjoyed, Hayward looked and acted lost and confused as he deflected questions. The optics were also negative as he disavowed any knowledge of events that might have led to the calamity that killed 11 of his employees. Unfortunately for America, he provided nothing that could be used against him in any court of law.
It may be useful for Congress to become educated through these hearings and perhaps oversight bodies will be pressed to actually do their jobs in future, however, the nature of the questions serves little purpose toward ensuring the long term reparations that will inevitably need to be provided to all those who have really incurred losses on the Gulf Coast.
For purposes of grandstanding, Congress is getting itself stuck in macro details that in effect leave Hayward and his Board of Directors off the hook.
Here is the direction the Congressional questions should take and why:
The most critical element in the management of a corporation is the structure of its executive lines of command.
When a CEO issues instructions, missives, or policies, and re-structures the company, as he or she deems appropriate to implement plans to achieve the company's mission, the line of command and its "walking papers," are clearly delineated, stated and evident.
Whether such instructions are in writing or verbal, each senior manager is given direction and parameters. The trickle down process permeates the corporation, and unless there is abject incompetence, even in a quarter-trillion dollar enterprise like BP, each employee from the CFO to the local technician knows his or her job. Each employee understands the scope of the decisions he or she can make.