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Mr. President, Just Fix, Don't Finger-Point

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
WASHINGTON -- Two months into the ongoing Gulf oil disaster, President Obama is still playing the political blame game instead of seeking a solution to the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.

Evidence is mounting daily that BP allegedly took irresponsible "shortcuts" to save money in drilling the deep-water well, though there was plenty of blame to go around, including a breakdown among key federal agencies who oversee drilling rig safety regulations.

Yet, inexplicably, at the beginning of this week, Obama had yet to meet with the chief executive of BP. Instead, he and his chief advisers keep finger-pointing in order to keep the public focus on the British oil giant and not on the White House's inability to take charge of the Gulf coast calamity.

Rush Limbaugh

And as this week began, embarrassing new information pointed to the administration's complete impotence during this crisis.

For weeks in this column, I have questioned why the White House did not seek out worldwide assistance to combat and contain the Gulf oil leak. Then, it turns out, as The Washington Post recently reported, that 17 countries, with experience in dealing with such spills, have offered to send needed ships and oil-removal equipment into the area.

Sweden was ready and willing to send three relief vessels, each of which can remove about 15,000 gallons of oil an hour.

Japan said it would send in a much-needed supply of booms into the Gulf.

Norway volunteered to dispatch a third of its oil-spill equipment into the region. Many other nations offered similar equipment.

Yet, as I write this, these countries have not heard from our government, the Post reported.

Is the Obama administration so absorbed by its blame-game strategy that it does not see the need to immediately respond to such offers at a time when it can help reduce the size and scope of the oil-damaged shorelines, beaches, marshes and wildlife?

For more than a month, the national news media gave Obama and his administration the benefit of the doubt, and few reporters or news analysts raised questions about his unwillingness or inability to aggressively deal with this monumental crisis. That kind of reticence has faded in recent weeks, though the story is still not getting the kind of coverage it warrants.

"Whether Obama has been demonstrative enough in his public handling of the catastrophe is a legitimate question," Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson writes this week in a blistering indictment of the administration's handling of this crisis.

"Every available piece of equipment in the world that can vacuum, skim, scoop or sop up oil ought to be in the Gulf by now, deployed under a central -- probably military -- command structure," he writes. "The beaches should be defended as if from a threatened enemy invasion. This is a time for overkill, for the Powell Doctrine, for 'decisive force.'"

"This is war," Robinson said. It is indeed, but a war that a leaderless White House is hopelessly ill-equipped to fight.

Republican leaders are stepping up their criticism, too, including likely 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who said Obama has been spending his time "looking for ways to find who to blame" for the crisis instead of looking for ways to end it

"How can it be that the person who's actually working to try and cap this spill hasn't even spoken to the president of the United States?" Romney said in a Fox News interview.

Obama should be "leading this entire effort to bring together the experts, the various oil company executives, (and) the engineers from various oil companies. Get them together, come up with solutions, implement those solutions," he said.

In fact, Obama is seeking out advice, but from the Center for American Progress, an ultra-liberal think tank that has maintained close ties to the White House and is led by former Clinton White House aide John Podesta, who has no experience is this kind of crisis.

Obama has mishandled this disaster from the beginning when one of his first actions was not to seek out the best experts and global assistance, but to name a commission to find out what went wrong and who was responsible.

He followed that action, not by sending in an armada of ships and equipment to combat the spreading oil, but by sending his attorney general and a team of government lawyers to Louisiana with threats of lawsuits.

And of course Obama has proposed yet another politically self-serving response to this oil spill, this time urging the Democratic Congress to pass his cap-and-trade energy tax legislation.

Republicans are crying that Obama is "in over his head." Indeed he is.

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