There are rumblings that Obama's handling of the BP oil disaster could turn out to be his "Katrina."
Here's what the Washington Post's Michael Shear wrote:
"The administration is well aware that the president's campaign victory was built in part on a belief among voters that he would do a better job at responding to disasters like Hurricane Katrina than did President Bush." He goes on to say that the disaster has left "the political effect on Obama's offshore drilling plan and broader climate change agenda uncertain. ... The accident in the gulf may provide more firepower for the critics on the left who for years have lobbied presidents and Congress to keep in place federal moratoriums on further offshore exploration."
And this is what Washington Times reporter Joseph Curl said:
"The rapidly expanding environmental catastrophe caused by the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana is presenting a growing political challenge to the Obama White House, with Mr. Obama and his aides at pains to defend the response and forestall comparisons to the Hurricane Katrina crisis."
On April 20, 40 miles off the coast of the mouth of the Mississippi River there was an explosion on an oil rig owned and operated by BP Oil. After the explosion it was reported that the rig was spewing 1,000 barrels of oil a day and the administration was relying on the information and assurances from the oil company that they could contain the oil and repair the damage.
A few days later, a huge holding tank containing oil broke off from the rig and sunk. Thereafter, the administration said that in fact that the rig was not leaking 1,000 barrels of oil a day it was leaking 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf of Mexico.
For 9 days after the initial explosion the president remained silent. His administration relied on BP to respond instead of swinging into action with every asset available to insure a rapid, necessary and proper response. The administration's immediate response was to state that this was BP's problem and that they would be held accountable for any and all damages that flowed from their accident.
The president waited more than a week after the explosion to send his Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to the region to coordinate a federal response. But, where was the military?
Unlike Katrina which was a stand-off in response among federal, state and local authorities as to who should do what, what was needed and when, here there is no question as to who should take the lead. The federal government has absolute and superior jurisdiction in this incident. That being the case they should have taken charge immediately.
This week when it was clear that the administration was taking heat for a slow and flat footed response to the BP disaster, the White House spin machine went into action and put forth talking points that encouraged officials to parrot the following in defense of their response:
"That's why the federal government has launched and coordinated an all-hands-on-deck, relentless response to this crisis from day one." -- President Obama.
"We had [Defense Department] resources there from Day One. This was a situation that was treated as a possible catastrophic failure from, from Day One," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"From day one, there has been the assumption here on the worst-case scenario," -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, CNN's "State of the Union."
"The most important thing is from Day One we stood corralling resources from a worst-case scenario working back," -- Coast Guard Admiral Mary Landry.
It is now crystal clear that the magnitude of this oil spill could be the most damaging oil spill in history, dwarfing even the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill. Environmentalists, oceanographers, and economists agree that this spill will have a devastating impact on marine life, and local economy's dependent on fishing, boating, recreation and tourism.
After Katrina, Democrats in criticizing Bush's response said that no one could have blamed Bush for a rapid and overwhelming federal response even if after the fact the response was not necessary. Where is that same accountability by Democrats to the federal response to the BP oil disaster?
The Obama response was not "overwhelming" and the administration made a choice initially to rely on BP instead of an "all hands on deck," "response from day one" from the federal government.
This president is a man of thought but NOT of action. His inactions with regard to the BP oil spill are similar to his response to the foiled Christmas day bombing aboard a Northwest jet over Detroit. While vacationing in Hawaii he delegated is initial response to his press secretary. He personally waited 3 days before making a statement about the first act on terror on American soil since 9/11. Immediately after the incident, his Homeland Security Secretary initially downplayed the incident. She refused to label it a terrorist act and initially stated that the man acted alone. --Later of course we knew that this was in fact a coordinated terrorist attack linked to Yemeni Al Qaeda.
In these times, we need a president who is not afraid to act. We need a leader who actually takes an "all hands on deck" approach to disasters "from day one."
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum.
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