WASHINGTON -- For two months, the Obama administration has been skirting the truth about its inept response to the April 20 BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and the resulting fire and oil spill. The O-Team claims it has been "on top" of this problem since "day one." Reality shows that both the leaks and the lies continue.
On June 15, President Barack Obama, master and commander of the teleprompter, tried using his first address from the Oval Office to convince the American people that his team was doing all that could be done in handling "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced." It was, even his supporters agree, a failure.
It's not that the president and his speechwriters didn't try. He attempted to emote. He tried to express his anger at BP's "recklessness." Having previously likened the Gulf catastrophe to the terror attack of 9/11, he referred to "our brave men and women in uniform." He even described his plan for dealing with millions of gallons of petroleum spewing into the Gulf of Mexico as a "battle we're waging" and said the oil is "assaulting our shores and our citizens." He then went on to lay out his "battle plan."
By the end of Obama's blessedly brief remarks, it was apparent the only new resources he's committing to "fight" this "epidemic" -- his words, not mine -- are lawyers and about 17,000 National Guard members. He went on to "urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible." The contrast between the number of uniformed personnel being sent to the Gulf Coast and the paltry 1,200 dispatched to help protect our southern border from a tidal wave of violence was inescapable.
So, too, is the evidence of political opportunism, egregious error and outright fabrication in what the O-Team claims to have done -- and what it plans to do -- in responding to the catastrophe. The very fact that Obama devoted nearly a third of his Oval Office remarks to advancing his cap-and-trade energy plan is proof that the administration still lives by chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's maxim: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."
Though Obama and his spokesmen steadfastly maintain they have been doing "everything possible since day one" to mitigate the consequences of the ongoing spill, it simply is not true. Fox News is not alone in reporting on the administration's unwillingness to waive provisions of U.S. maritime law known as the Jones Act that bar foreign-flagged ships from transporting cargo or passengers between U.S. ports.
According to O-Team press briefings, Jones Act waivers will be granted when needed. This begs a question: Why isn't there a veritable fleet of oil-recovery, -skimming and -containment vessels from the Persian Gulf, the Philippines, China and Russia already at work off U.S. shores? And it's not just the issue of foreign ships; it's also a matter of American companies' being rebuffed after offering to help.
According to Obama, "mitigating the consequences" of this disaster for the "people of the Gulf" really matters. For decades, we have known that one of the most effective pieces of equipment in reducing shoreline damage from chemical and oil spills is floating containment boom.
On May 21, both of Maine's U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, wrote Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident manager and the head of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, alerting them that miles of certified containment boom, manufactured by a company in Maine, was immediately available for overnight shipment to the Gulf Coast. Yet as of this writing, none of this critically needed boom has been shipped.
Attorney General Eric Holder's June 1 announcement that the Department of Justice will pursue criminal sanctions against BP may sound good to those who want to launch punitive expeditions, but it does nothing to stop oil from gushing from the seabed. And his promise that "every cent of taxpayer money will be repaid" from a $20 billion "escrow account" is completely without foundation because BP could be driven out of business.
Obama also used his Oval Office remarks to announce the appointment of a new head of the Minerals Management Service, the government agency responsible for regulating oil drilling and mining. One might expect the person appointed to this post to be someone possessing at least minimal technical competence. Instead, the president chose a career government attorney -- a lawyer who made his "bones" as an assistant special prosecutor in the effort to bring down President Ronald Reagan over the so-called Iran-Contra affair. Obama should be glad there are no special prosecutors looking into his actions in the "Offshore Drilling affair." Yet.