"I can't dive down there and plug the hole. I can't suck it up with a straw," Obama "whinged," as Maureen Dowd called it, about the BP oil spill.
By now doubtless Obama is regretting that remark, which has been called "whiny and juvenile." He will wish he'd sucked it up. People take that as meaning he can't do anything. This is Mr. The Buck Stops Here? I don't think so.
A CounterPunch article
, "Deconstructing Obama's BP Speech," by Anthony DiMaggio argues that in his Oval Office speech, the President was essentially lying about his handling of the spill. Obama said:Obama: From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation's history, an effort led by Adm. Thad Allen, who has almost 40 years of experience responding to disasters.
: "This claim is not substantiated by the historical record. As mentioned above, the Obama administration preferred a 'let BP handle it' response from the beginning, to the point where even liberal pundits in the corporate media attacked Obama for his unwillingness to intervene. More than a month after the onset of the crisis, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs argued that BP had 'the technical expertise to plug the hole...It is their responsibility.' When asked by a reporter if a federal government takeover of the cleanup was possible, Gibbs answered a resounding 'no,' contending that the Obama administration lacked the power to play anything more than a supervisory role."
In other words, the speech is a whitewash, a rewriting of the facts, a bypassing of a needed apology (as today's NYTimes lead editorial commented). DiMaggio cites polls showing the public and especially Gulf Coasters are highly critical of Obama's weak handling of the spill.
Obama is trying in the speech to bypass the former blind faith that caused him to delcare, "it turns out that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills...they are technologically very advanced." As further proof of Obama's and the administration's callousness DiMaggio notes that "the Minerals Management Service (supervised under Obama by the Department of the Interior) approved 198 leases for oil wells following the April 20th Deepwater explosion. Americans may be appalled to know that BP was the winner for 13 of those bids."Inexcusable ignorance
Now Obama says everybody "wants to know why" the Deepwater Horizon blast occurred, but the information was out there about BP's rogue behavior, as shown in an important article
in Rolling Stone
by Tim Dickenson, "The Spill, the Scandal, and the President," and also in an Associated Press piece
by Matthew Daly and Ray Henry, "Documents Show BP Cut Corners in Days Before Blowout." The government was not doing its regulatory job; the Obama Minerals Management Service was a Bush-style tool of Big Oil that let BP go ahead and cut corners to continue its already outrageous profit level, and safety be damned. A Congressional investigator has found
(the London Times
says) that to cut costs BP used an inferior casing on the well that was doomed to fail; BP employees have said they knew a failure was coming sooner or later.
"Simply put," DiMaggio goes on, "Obama should have known the dangers involved with drilling, as proper regulation of BP would have revealed the perils involved in offshore drilling. That he still wants to 'know why' the oil site was dangerous is a sign more of his willful incompetence than anything else."The MMS: a rubber stamp body whose overhaul was overdue
Obama, as DiMaggio continues to quote and dissect the Oval Office speech, now turns on the Minerals Management Service, but the time to have overhauled this rubber stamp outfit was long ago. He set the stage for the whole disaster, and now is covering up his role in it, as shown in a compendium piece
from Salon.com. I recommend perusing these sources for anyone who wonders if Obama is an innocent bystander or straight-talker in this matter, which threatens to be his Whitewater, his Monica Lowinsky, his Watergate, and his Katrina.Two stains that are spreading
Just as the BP oil spill isn't going to go away, Obama's mishandling of it isn't going to go away either. Tim Dickinson's Rolling Stone
article clearly demonstrates that the Administration dodged responsibility for handling the spill, that BP's behavior was outrageous and everybody ought to have known it, Obama's Katrina -- or his 9/11: Dickinson wries, "Like the attacks by Al Qaeda, the disaster in the Gulf was preceded by ample warnings – yet the administration had ignored them."
We are all responsible for our dependence on oil. BP is responsible for being virtually a rogue company, violating the rules of safety to maximize profits. But Obama is responsible for not knowing that; for not being the straight shooter he likes to say he is; for dodging responsibility, then seizing it too late.