WASHINGTON -- Four weeks into the worst environmental disaster to strike the U.S. coastline, President Obama still hasn't taken full command of the oil spill that now threatens Gulf state economies.
As the oil debacle unfolded, Obama struck back politically at BP and the other drilling contractors responsible for the oil rig explosion that has poured millions of barrels of oil into Gulf waters and along its shoreline.
But this is a man-made disaster of unprecedented proportions that cries out for immediate presidential action and the considerable resources of the federal government -- technological, military, robotic submersibles and high-level access to the world's oil disaster experts.
Instead, an impotent White House came forth with high-sounding presidential statements and promises of action but little else, as the oil continued to gush into Gulf water, fouling one of the most lucrative fishing grounds along America's coastline.
Why didn't Obama immediately name a high-level environmental strike force to bring to bear the full resources the government has to help plug the leak, instead of turning over frontline responsibility to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who is woefully ill-equipped and unprepared for the job, and whose department knows even less about deep-sea drilling spills?
Four weeks were allowed to pass before the president belatedly decided to establish an independent commission to investigate the oil spill, and only after his administration began to face increasing criticism for its regulatory failures that may very well have contributed to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.
But by then, weeks had passed and the damage was done as the White House stood by, and the focus remained on BP as one fix after another failed to plug the burst well pipe one mile beneath the surface of the sea.
"The U.S. government has a responsibility for protecting the public safety ... and that responsibility, I fear, was not fulfilled in this case," Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said at a hearing Monday.
Is this Barack Obama's Hurricane Katrina disaster? It looks that way, with one strategic difference: The compliant news media that never seems to blame Obama for anything, as it did in every case under the Bush administration.
But Obama's failure to seize the reins of leadership in the BP oil catastrophe is one of many major policy failures for which the media have failed to hold him accountable.
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