AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Critics have bashed President Obama for being slow to seize the political initiative in combating the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, now widely believed to be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. The White House has battled back, releasing a timeline of events showing that Obama was briefed—and deploying the Coast Guard—within 24 hours of the Deepwater Horizon blowout.
What has not been previously disclosed: The president was not only briefed on the real-time events of the spill, but also on just how bad it would be—and how hard it would be to plug the hole.
Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, told Obama at one of the earliest briefings in late April that the blowout would likely lead to an unprecedented environmental disaster, senior White House aides told The Daily Beast. Browner warned that capping a well at such depths had never been done before, and that they ought to expect an oil spill that would continue until a relief well was drilled in August, the aide said.
That early briefing on the scope of the spill—and enormous technical challenges involved in fixing it—might help explain the sense of fatalism that has infused Obama’s team from the start.
Publishing this at 8:46 PM on a Friday night, when it is least likely to be noticed, Richard Wollfe sends out a trial balloon, to see if it will float some sympathy toward the White House: Hey, America, Obama knew it was going to be really bad, and there was nothing he could actually do about that, so he did nothing about anything.
Hey, America, I knew it was hopeless, and I couldn’t change anything, so I couldn’t see the point of accepting the help of 17 nations offering their technology and their expertise in attempting to contain the damage as much as possible; no point in even attempting to use supertankers to try to remove as much oil from the surface as possible, even if they have to do it for months.
Hey, America, I knew it was bad, so there was no sense in telling you anything, or in helping Governor Jindal try to protect the marshlands and coasts of Louisiana.
President Obama surely cannot be blamed for (or personally do anything about) “the damn hole,” that–even “capped”– is still gushing oil into (and beyond) the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s why reasonable people have not been the ones insisting that the president play superhero, or display reassuring “concern” by doing a public freak-out. In a crisis, you want the president to be calm and collected.
But Obama just as surely could have informed the nation that we were facing a long-term assault on our environment that would have wide repercussions.
He could have put his legendary oratorical skills to work, communicating an appreciation of the gravity of the situation, and an assurance that everything that could possibly be done to protect the environment was being done.
That was his fundamental job as president: clear communication of the struggle ahead, and reassurance that all possible efforts at collection and containment were operational. That is what he could have done, and did not; six weeks into it, he still has not really managed it.
We’ve just spent years listening to ungenerous, miserable people excoriate President Bush for calmly taking 7 minutes, after learning of the attacks of 9/11, to allow his Secret Service to do their thing and to–with a great deal of composure–take his leave from a classroom without managing to scare the children or give an impression of fear that would be put before the nation and the world.
After watching President Obama take six weeks to process the terrible news he was given–pressing forward with golf, vacations, parties and fund-raisers in order to not scare the nation–even if that it meant he seemed a little disengaged from the BP Oil disaster, I never want to hear another sneering, idiotic My Pet Goat joke, again.
A president needs to be calm and deliberate in the face of crisis, and he even needs to say puzzling things like “go on vacation, go shopping” or “go to the beaches” when it is clear the crisis has precipitated a long, hard slog.
But he also needs to promptly stand on a pile of rubble with the firefighters, or in a marsh full of dead wildlife and a slick, red tide, and say, “we’re going to respond; we’re going to protect and we’re going to rebuild and restore. We are going to get through this long hard slog, together.”
And he has to be able to convince people that he means every word he has said.
“. . .Obama’s team is focusing on the options at their immediate disposal—methods of news management and presidential communication.”
There will be a slow but continual drip of bad-to-worse news about this issue, coming out of the White House. President Obama needs to shake off the fatalism and show the nation that he is willing to try things, fight back against the rising tide of suffocating red death.
The president who rose to office riding the notion of hope cannot be the guy who meanders around, wishing things were not so damned hopeless.
Allahpundit: “. . . if he really did know right away that this was the oil equivalent of an asteroid strike, he didn’t scramble some sort of all-hands-on-deck emergency operation to protect the coastline. Remember, Jindal reportedly requested five million feet of hard boom back on May 2, long after Obama (according to Wolffe) knew about the magnitude of the disaster. By May 24, not even 800,000 feet had arrived. What happened?”
Kim Priestap says the Obama administration’s “fatalism” looks like “gross negligence”:
He could have ordered the mobilization of as much of the government’s resources as possible and put out an SOS to private companies and organizations with expertise in disaster clean up to try to prevent the oil slick from entering the gulf’s coastal waters. With the advanced notice that he was given, he could have had them ready and waiting.
But he didn’t do anything.
What did Tony Hayward Know? and when did he know it?