This is the Obama I voted for. The caretaker. The hamstrung wunderkind. The graying, toothless, scandal-ridden executive, vainly proposing high-minded laws and stimuli that die in the legislature. My favorite kind of president: the kind who can't get anything done.
The scandal over Solyndra, a Fremont, California-based maker of tube-shaped solar panels, has only gotten worse since President Barack Obama tried to defend his command-economy principles to a polite press corps last week. Shortly after Obama's lackluster press conference on Thursday, Jonathan Silver, administrator of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, announced he was leaving his powerful and prestigious federal government job for the opportunity to become a “distinguished visiting fellow” at the Third Way think tank.
On Tuesday, Solyndra itself coughed up CEO Brian Harrison, announcing in bankruptcy court that Harrison, who was in charge as Solyndra obtained a $527 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan and subsequently went bankrupt, had left the company "as scheduled."
Solyndra dead-enders have tried to downplay Silver's departure from the Energy Department. So has the Obama Administration.
“Because of my absolute confidence in Jonathan and the outstanding work he has done, I would welcome his continued service at the Department, but I completely understand the decision he has made,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement about a job change that could most charitably be described as awkwardly timed. “Under his leadership, the loan program has demonstrated considerable success, with a broad portfolio of investments that will help American companies compete in the global clean energy market.” Chu claims that Silver made his decision prior to the Solyndra bankruptcy and Silver’s disastrous testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Human sacrifice is the food of politics, so career crashes like these are to be expected. Note that Silver has now been sacrificed twice—first in having to testify over a loan that was made two months before he took office, and now as the preliminary to Chu’s highly probable departure.
But Solyndra has been remarkably lethal for a hubbub that only surfaced because House Republicans made an issue of it. Whether you believe Americans are not interested in Solyndra, have not heard enough about it from the establishment media, or are too smart to be fooled by a “faux scandal,” one thing stands out: Like the originally marginal Occupy Wall Street movement, Solyndra keeps getting bigger the more it is belittled.
It also continues to generate side troubles. Human Events' Neil W. McCabe reported Wednesday on another green energy company with close ties to Golden State Democrats that has lately come into a big federal loan. You may not share McCabe's judgment that San Jose-based SunPower will be "twice as bad" as Solyndra or his confidence that the company is doomed. But the drumbeat of publicly funded green-job disappointments is turning what had been the president's signature industrial policy into a grinding, extended walk of shame:
How did a failing California solar company, buffeted by short sellers and shareholder lawsuits, receive a $1.2 billion federal loan guarantee for a photovoltaic electricity ranch project—three weeks after it announced it was building new manufacturing plant in Mexicali, Mexico, to build the panels for the project.
The company, SunPower (SPWR-NASDAQ), now carries $820 million in debt, an amount $20 million greater than its market capitalization...
Two men with insight into the process are SunPower rooter Rep. George R. Miller III, (D.-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee and the co-chairman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and his SunPower lobbyist son, George Miller IV....
The congressman hosted an Oct. 14, 2010, tour of the plant with company CEO Thomas H. Werner and Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar to promote the company’s fortunes.
“The path to a clean energy economy starts here, in places like SunPower’s research and development facility,” said Salazar during the tour.
As the bad news continues to pile up, Obama is consistent in his notion that it's possible to make the problem go away with sugary words. At his press conference last week, the president gave his most complete response on Solyndra to date, but the responses were nothing new: