News & Politics

Ace In The Hole: Rightbloggers Say Chile Mine Rescue Means Obama Sucks, Capitalism Rules


Last week we talked about the Tennessee fire department that let a man’s house burn to the ground because he hadn’t paid protection money, and the rightbloggers who thought this was a laudable example of free market justice.

This week they celebrated another free market triumph — though at least this time it had to do with people being rescued rather than abandoned to their fates.

It began with Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal announcing to the world that the miners who were dramatically rescued last week after 69 days underground owed their escape from certain death to capitalism.

Actually, Henninger may have been inspired by the queen of the rightbloggers, Michelle Malkin. The day before Henninger’s column, Malkin celebrated Jeff Hart, a drilling expert hired by the rescuers to operate the T130 drill that bored the rescue tunnel.

It was a nice tribute, or would have been were it not curiously infested with complaints about American liberals. “In a different day and age, Jeff Hart would be the most famous American in our country right now,” Malkin claimed. “But because Jeff Hart works in an industry under fire by the Obama administration, more people in Chile will celebrate this symbol of American greatness than in America itself.”

Actually Hart’s role in the rescue has been extremely well-covered in the press (Sample: “Colo. Drillers Back From Chile to Heroes’ Welcome,” headlined the godless liberal Washington Post) , and it’s hard to see how the Obama Administration could have prevented him from getting more ink if it wanted to. But never mind; Malkin’s column was an early indicator that there was rightwing gold to be mined, so to speak, from the rescue story.

On Thursday Henninger began his column, “It needs to be said. The rescue of the Chilean miners is a smashing victory for free-market capitalism.”

His next paragraph was even weirder: “Amid the boundless human joy of the miners’ liberation, it may seem churlish to make such a claim. It is churlish. These are churlish times, and the stakes are high.”

Henninger threw in a bit about America’s tea-partying “angry electorate” (seems they’re involved with everything these days, even Chilean rescue operations!) before getting to the nitty-gritty:

“What happened over the past 25 years that meant the difference between life and death for those men?” asked Henninger. “Short answer: the Center Rock drill bit.” The bit was developed by Center Rock Inc. — “a private company.” In America. With 74 employees (a small business!). And it was “heretofore not featured on websites like Engadget or Gizmodo” so you blue-state latte-swillers probably never heard of them, and you certainly wouldn’t be interested to know that the drill bit was made “for the money, for profit.” And so were the cables that were bringing up the miners, copper socks that don’t stink, and other modern miracles.

Henninger restrained himself from declaring that, since Samuel Colt invented his revolver for money, capitalism causes police departments, but you get the idea: Everything good comes from the market. And Obama wants to kill the market by taxing the rich. Henninger hoped for “a new American economic model that lets our innovators rescue the rest of us” so we won’t be killed like those miners would have been without capitalism.

Henninger admitted “some will recoil at these triumphalist claims for free-market capitalism.” We wonder if he knows why. His trope is not so much an argument as a poetic fancy — like the famous “for want of a nail, the shoe was lost” or “the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone” — promoted beyond its usefulness. One might as well say that Chile would not exist in its present state if it were not for natural geological movements, and advance it as an argument that if we want to save its miners, we need cap-and-trade.

Also, against the provenance of the drill bit we may consider this: The copper mining company in charge of the operation is state-run (nationalized in the 70s, ironically, by Salvador Allende). It stepped in because the private company for whom the miners were working couldn’t afford the rescue and had to be, so to speak, bailed out. Plus, the international cooperation that assisted the rescue included state agencies like NASA. Etc.

We might also say, as politely as we can, that the impulse to help those in mortal peril isn’t one traditionally associated with the profit motive, at least not by normal people.

This didn’t stop rightbloggers from running with the idea that the miners were rescued by the magic of the market rather than by any Golden Rule bullshit.

An unsigned Washington Examiner editorial echoed Malkin’s claim that “President Obama is apparently so invested in demonizing American free enterprise that it never occurred to him to give credit where it’s due.” They also attacked environmentalists whom they said “rarely miss an opportunity to criticize the American energy industry for a lengthy litany of supposed evils,” and predicted that, “if the polls are right, that will change Nov. 2,” and endangered miners will no longer have to live in fear of environmentalists.

Warner Todd Huston made an even more extravagant claim: The Chilean miners “have to be joyful” that they “aren’t miners trapped in an American mine during Obama’s presidency. If they had been, they’d still be down there unable to wipe the tears from their loved one’s faces.”

How did he figure that? Because “Chile’s President, Sebastián Piñera, famously set aside the bureaucracy of his country’s regulations” and “threw open his arms and accepted help from as many interested nations as possible…” Huston contrasted this to the Administration’s behavior during the BP spill, when “Obama and his administration spent more time pointing fingers, blaming people and corporations, and proposing hasty and unnecessary new regulations…”

This horrible Obama statist approach, you may remember, led to the loss of zero lives after the initial explosion, the creation of an escrow fund for parties suffering damages, and the sealing of the broken oil pump. But Huston’s got a point: If miners had been trapped at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, they’d probably be dead today.

Other rightbloggers agreed Obama had made a terrible botch of the Gulf spill. “Obama was tried and found wanting,” said RedState. “He really looks and acts tepid. His once soaring rhetoric has a desperate tone behind it.” Looking through their magic mirror, RedState saw that Americans “cannot help but think back to Barack Obama’s faltering, grudging response to the gulf oil spill, which he used as an excuse for shutting down our drilling nationwide with a phony moratorium.” In contrast, the Chilean President isn’t going to let a little thing like a cave-in make him close down this productive mine as unsafe — oh wait, yes he is. Well, he certainly isn’t tepid!

Instapundit was so enthused about the victory of capitalism in Chile that he linked to an old piece of his own in which he denounced the federal government’s efforts right after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. “‘Private maritime operators kept their vessels onsite and available until Friday, Day Four, when federal authorities took over.’ ‘Day Four, when federal authorities took over.’ There’s a lesson in that phrase, isn’t there?” Indeed, who can forget the crappy job U.S. military did at Ground Zero? It’s a miracle we didn’t have a Tea Party in 2001.

Others tried to give Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera the Carly Fiorina treatment. American Thinker’s Anthony Kang quoted columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady: “What you have in Chile is a president who was once an executive at a very large corporation. He knows how to take charge — and he knows how to execute.” We bet his sleeves are always rolled up, too. Also, “Sebastian Piñera is the brother of Jose Piñera,” said Kang, “the architect of Chile’s private pension system and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute,” proving that capitalism is genetic.

Kang also declared that there are a lot of mining accidents in China, which is exactly the sort of state into which liberals want to turn America, and this proved that “you can cry for bigger government, but all you’ll get is more regulation, more corruption, more inefficiency, more disasters — along with an economy crippled by regulation, should progressives have their way.”

Robert Goldberg even saw a profit motive in the rescue itself: “The $20 million spent to rescue the miners,” he said, “will generate greater wealth and longer life for thousands and millions of people in the years ahead.” He didn’t say how he knew this — maybe capitalism came to him in the night and whispered it in his ear.

Maybe the role of capitalism was best seen in the aftermath of the rescue, as the miners held back details of their ordeal, presumably in anticipation of a book deal — though they reportedly want to “fairly divide the spoils of their media stardom” among their numbers, so maybe it’s really all about socialism!

Rescue operations always engender tons of hoopla, and not all of it is high-minded or sober — recall the great Billy Wilder film Ace in the Hole, and the cheesy stories, roadside businesses, and other money schemes that sprang up around the trapped man’s ordeal. But this is the first time we can recall that the racket built on a rescue had to do with politics in an unrelated country. Clearly over the years our standards have declined. And, we fear, they’re only going to get worse.


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