06.02.2010 0

Obama’s Oily Mess

By Rick Manning

I am desperately hoping that what I am writing is proven to not be true, but when the Obama Administration declared that they are now focused upon “containment” of the Deepwater oil spill, it sent off alarm bells.

The one truly effective thing the Obama team could have been doing over the past month and a half is containing the spill. Apart from convening the world’s top deep water drilling experts to consult on the problem and offer possible solutions, and providing whatever resources were needed to BP, there was little that the federal government could do in plugging the leak.

Now that “top kill” has failed and shooting golf balls and tire parts into the hole hasn’t fixed the problem, the Obama Administration is finally focused upon containment.

Where have they been the past month and a half?

This is the same federal government, through the ever-mindful environmentalists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which tried to stop BP from spreading dispersant on the oil spill, according to a May 20 EPA press release. Apparently, these “green” regulators didn’t like BP using a dispersant, approved by their own agency, and demanded they cease and desist and submit an alternative plan. Apparently, Obama didn’t let EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson know that this was a crisis that had his full attention.

This “boot on the throat” approach of the Administration has been counter-productive. Rather than breaking down barriers and helping to solve the problem, they have thrown up roadblocks toward containing this spill.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s well-publicized battle with the Administration’s Army Corps of Engineers over constructing temporary sand bars in front of environmentally sensitive coastal wetlands is another prime example. These sand bars would disrupt the natural environment in the short term, but early construction could have stopped much of the environmental damage that we are currently witnessing.

Obama could have and should have cleared the way to take whatever containment steps were necessary, as this was both in his power and ability — or to get out of the way of Louisiana, BP, or anybody else that was trying to prevent the spread of the spill. Yet he didn’t, and his failure to do so is the real reason that Obama rightfully bears the brunt of the negative political fallout for this catastrophe.

The question that needs to be answered, now that Obama has awakened to the scope of his political problem, is what took him so long, and this is where I hope that an independent review of e-mail and text messages prove me to be wrong.

I fear that Obama and his Chicago political henchman Rahm Emanuel made the political calculation that once they got involved and took charge of the spill containment that they would bear the responsibility if it failed or only partially succeeded. I can almost hear the reasoning. Once the leak is stopped, no one is going to remember BP, the focus will be on the containment effort, and if one drop of oil hits the marshlands or beaches, we will get tarred with at least part of the blame.

I hope that Obama did not choose to allow the oil to spread to an unmanageable level because he had a valid scapegoat in BP, and did not want to risk getting his hands dirty by pitching in and actively working the containment effort from day one.

Weeks ago, I wondered why Obama’s crew didn’t follow the Saudi government’s actions when they were faced with a massive tanker spill a few years ago. The Saudi’s deployed five massive empty supertankers around the spill and literally sucked up the oil/water mix to limit the spread. The situation is clearly different, but removing some of the oil from the water early and continuously would seem like an obvious approach to containment.

Why didn’t we hear Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano giving daily briefings on the containment effort? The obvious answer is that a month and a half into the crisis, there wasn’t a containment effort to report on.

It is fair to ask if this Administration, which has thrived on taking advantage of crises for political gain, may have failed to take steps to mitigate this oil leak crisis in order to avoid responsibility.

While the Obama team worried about retroactively changing the oil spill liability limits to give their trial lawyer friend’s free reign into BPs coffers, the oil spill got worse.

While the Obama team blocked attempts by the Louisiana state government to minimize the damage, the disaster got worse.

While the EPA seemed strangely out of step through its attempts to block the use of dispersant to allow easier clean up, the black ooze washed ashore in Louisiana and the disaster got worse.

Now, Obama is talking containment as the leak is projected to continue through August. Somehow I suspect that in this case the word containment is less about the Gulf coastline, and more about political damage.

I hope that I am wrong, and that this Administration has just been exposed as being woefully incompetent rather than being willfully negligent in this crisis. Congress needs to immediately demand the Administration’s e-mail and text message traffic to determine if politics trumped our national interest.

Tragically, the hands of those who made the decision to not immediately implement, and instead to actively obstructed, efforts to contain the disaster are covered in oil every bit as much as those responsible for the original leak. If the decision was made for political purposes or to avoid taking responsibility, those decision-makers should be fired. America deserves better from her government.

Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government, and the former Public Affairs Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor.

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