Scott Spiegel

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Obama: There Since Cinco de Cuatro!

May 07, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Environmentalism

Deepwater Horizon Fire - April 21, 2010
Image by SkyTruth via Flickr

I’ve got it—an excuse the Obama administration can use to explain why it waited so long to take substantive action in dealing with the Gulf oil spill, an account that also manages to stick it to George W. Bush: Obama was so busy cleaning up Bush’s messes that he didn’t have time to clean up the mess in the Gulf!

The timeline of events since the explosion of the British Petroleum-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 reveals a less than flattering picture of the acuity and alacrity of the government in fulfilling its role in handling the crisis.

Three days after the explosion, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted to reporters that the catastrophe would not affect the President’s plans to open several microscopic pockets of our vast offshore oil reserves for drilling, the only reassuring result of this debacle.

It is important to understand that in Obama WhiteHouseSpeak, Gibbs’ statement is tantamount to announcing, “It’s a teeny-tiny spark that’ll be put out by morning, and we’re not remotely worried about it.  Why bow over spilt milk?”  The administration that popularized the saying “Never let a serious crisis go to waste” and would love any excuse to backtrack on its recent Democrat-infuriating promise to minimally expand drilling would not have let the opportunity to renege on its promise go by if it had truly apprehended the full extent of the impending disaster.

True, the first Deep Horizon oil leaks were not discovered until the next day, after the Coast Guard had called off its search operation for the missing rig workers.  Yet somehow it took until the following Tuesday, a full week after the explosion, for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to announce that he would be launching an investigation into the incident.

One might wonder whether the department had fully grasped the enormity of the situation even then, given that on the same day, Salazar’s chief of staff, Tom Strickland—whom Salazar had assigned to be the “point person” on this issue—set off with his wife for a three-day “work-focused” trip to the Grand Canyon that apparently included a day of “work-focused” rafting.

Days later, when the potential danger of the spreading oil spill was beginning to dawn on department staff, the National Park Service rushed a helicopter to the 55th state to airlift Strickland out of the Canyon and whisk him off to New Orleans.

In the meantime, Homeland Security Secretary Janet “The System Worked” Napolitano, whose department was supposed to be working closely with the Interior Department to address the crisis, told reporters that the Defense Department had no involvement in addressing the spill: “If and when they have something to add, we’ll certainly make that known,” she snapped.

Just as Napolitano had changed her answer regarding the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing from “The system worked” to “The system didn’t work,” three days after her disavowal of Defense Department involvement in the cleanup she told “Meet the Press” that the Defense Department had been in the Gulf “from Day One.  This was a situation that was treated as a possible catastrophic failure from Day One.”  (The administration later flirted with the idea of claiming Napolitano had actually said “May One,” but then decided even they weren’t dishonest enough to pull that off.)

To reconcile her conflicting comments, a department spokesman claimed that in her latter statement, Napolitano had been referring to the presence of the Coast Guard, which had been in the Gulf since Day One.

Yes, the Coast Guard was very probably on the scene since Hour One, since that is their mission whenever such an accident happens at sea.  For Napolitano to claim that a search mission by the Coast Guard was equivalent to sending Defense Department resources to the area to deal with “a possible catastrophic failure” is like saying that flight attendants collecting trash from passengers on Northwest Flight 253 reflected the Transportation Security Administration’s initiative in helping stop underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

At least Obama is pointing the finger at BP for their role in the disaster—a potential conflict of interest, one might think, given the recent revelation that Obama is the federal candidate who has received the greatest amount in campaign contributions from the oil company over the past 20 years.

Normally I wouldn’t rag on Obama for failing to address the oil spill crisis sooner, but he brought it on himself when he parachuted into New Orleans as a newly elected Senator in 2005 to make a big show of mouthing off, Kanye West-style, about the incompetence of the Bush administration in dealing with the Katrina aftermath.  Obama stepped into this oil slick all by himself, so to speak.

To paraphrase two unfortunate Kanye West quotes: “BP, I’ma let you finish cleaning up the Gulf… But Barack Obama doesn’t care about Louisiana jumbo shrimpers!”

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