Obama: Golf Over Gulf

The excuses are wearing thin. The tough talk has been exposed as nonsense. At this point, it is clear that British Petroleum (BP) and the Obama Administration are making it up as they go along. 

Despite bravado from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar about taking over the oil spill effort from BP, Coast Guard Commander Thad Allen dismissed this as just a “metaphor.” Allen claims that only BP has the expertise and the equipment to deal with the oil spill. He even says that he trusts BP, making Allen the only person in the world with such confidence in the British polluters. 

It is amazing to think that the federal government has been approving deep-water drilling without any real plan in case of a blowout. So far, every tactic that BP has tried has failed and the prospects for their latest gambit, the “top kill,” are uncertain at best. BP has pushed back the start of this newest attempt to stop the oil spill several times.

In the meantime, the Obama Administration seems to be content to trust BP to lead the effort, but the disgusted people of South Louisiana want more action. In fact, they are demanding leadership. Obama’s strategy is even troubling such highly partisan Democrats as political consultant James Carville. According to Carville, “They’re risking everything by this go along with BP strategy.” He called the administration’s response to the crisis “lackadaisical.”

In a crisis, leaders emerge and deal effectively with the emergency. In this environmental disaster, Barack Obama has been disengaged, has made very few comments on the situation and has shown a total lack of leadership. He is more interested in pinning blame on BP and creating a federal commission to investigate the accident. There will be plenty of time for investigations, but now is the time to halt the leak, contain the spill and clean up the mess. While the Obama Administration tries to play politics, the Louisiana coast is dying.

The President has not held a real news conference in months, so he has not answered any serious questions about his administration’s lame response to this crisis. In the past 35 days, his only feeble attempt to deal with the media consisted of answering two questions from the foreign press about illegal immigration. 

The truth is that, from the very beginning, Obama has given this monumental problem only scant attention. Is Obama moving so tentatively because of his close ties to BP? According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama was the largest recipient of campaign contributions from BP in the last election cycle, receiving $77,051.

Is it because the spill is happening off the coast of a red state? There seems to be little doubt that if this tragedy occurred off the coast of California or New York, there would be more urgency from the White House. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said that President Obama has been taking too “doggone long to get in there, to dive in there and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here.”

As the invasion of oil continues and the marsh dies, desperate Louisiana officials are trying to move forward with a plan to build a series of barrier islands to capture the oil. Yet, the dredging project cannot begin because the necessary permits have not been issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

After five weeks of inaction, no local or state official should have to ask for any more approval from federal agencies. No one should wait another minute for help that may never arrive. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal complained that he was “frustrated” by the slow governmental response. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is also disgusted by the lack of leadership and action from both BP and the federal government. He is so upset that at the next council meeting he will request emergency funding so the parish can begin the barrier project immediately. The parish has access to the equipment and the personnel to complete the project, which should be billed to British Petroleum. 

On the federal level, the President should convene a meeting of the top leaders in the oil and gas industry to develop an action plan. He should direct the military to offer whatever assistance is necessary to stop the oil volcano from gushing into the gulf and to clean up the disaster in the marsh. The National Guard should be mobilized to the region and recreational boaters and fisherman should be utilized to tow containment booms and skim the oil from the surface. Volunteers should be recruited from around the Gulf Coast to hit the beaches to clean up the remains of the oil. 

Instead of creating an aggressive action plan to deal with the crisis, the President is spending today traveling to California to campaign for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Sadly, the President is placing politics over this disaster and reinforcing the suspicion shared by many in Louisiana that he does not care about this issue or the damage being done to the wetlands. To make matters even worse, the President is getting ready to take his second vacation since this crisis started and has played golf several times since the oil spill occurred. If a Republican President were responding to this disaster in such a cavalier manner there would be a media firestorm. In this case, the media has given the President a pass and focused their attention on British Petroleum, but, in reality, both deserve criticism.

It is time for the people of Louisiana to take matters into their own hands. The excuses, inaction and finger-pointing from the twins of incompetence—British Petroleum and the Obama Administration—are pathetic and are just making this horrific disaster even worse. This catastrophe reminds us once again that the best way for local communities to deal with a crisis is to respond aggressively and not wait for official approval. Remember, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission.