Social & Domestic Issues

Obama Fiddled While the Gulf Burned

“The oil that is still leaking from the well can seriously damage the economy and the environment of our Gulf States, and it could extend for a long time. It could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who call this place home. That is why the federal government has launched an all-hands-on-deck, relentless response to this crisis from day one.”—President Barack Obama, May 2.

President Obama has tried to sugarcoat his administration’s inadequate and tardy response to the worst oil spill in our nation’s history. His claim that the administration has been “all-hands-on-deck … from day one” is laughable.

The Deepwater Horizon well exploded on April 20, but the President did not make his first remarks on the incident until nine days later and finally visited the region May 2, 12 days after the massive explosion. In the days after the spill, the administration did not express much concern and the Coast Guard commander for the region said that “we do not see a major spill emanating from this incident.” Instead of sending the “A-team” to the region, the President dispatched a deputy Interior secretary.

Prior to addressing the Gulf disaster, the President found time to blast Wall Street and the governor of Arizona, advocate Earth Day awareness, meet with the Rev. Billy Graham, pitch racial politics in his weekly radio address, prepare his jokes for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, make a racially divisive video to activate his political coalition for the 2010 election and hold an impromptu news conference on a range of topics. In this news conference, the President discussed everything from the Supreme Court to immigration, but did not mention the disaster in the Gulf.

It was not until April 29 that President Obama deemed the massive explosion right off the coast of Louisiana to be worthy of comment. It was at that point that his administration finally realized that they had underestimated the severity of the explosion. Only then did the administration move into a frenzied state of “action” trying to cover-up their initial mistakes, inaction and utter ineptitude.

Commercial fishermen in Louisiana could have been utilized from the early hours of this crisis to deploy boom and protect delicate marshland. Sadly, there was an unacceptable delay and even now, not enough fishermen are being used and many continue to wait for a call to action that has not come. In addition, the controlled burn of the oil was not started until four days after the second leak was discovered.

Five years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit, government officials at all levels failed the citizens of the state. This time, there are similar failures from government officials who waited much too long to take action. Dealing with an emergency effectively requires decisive leadership. On that important test, President Obama failed miserably. Of course, the liberal mainstream news media has given the President a pass. If a Republican President had neglected such a crisis for so long, there would be a media firestorm.

During his visit to Gulf, the President once again pinned the blame on British Petroleum (BP), the operator of the well. Yet, this blame game does nothing to help Louisiana deal with another Katrina-like threat. Of course, BP will have to pay for the damages and is ultimately responsible, but when the Gulf Coast is threatened by a massive oil spill, it becomes the responsibility of the President of the United States as well. Our federal government has many more resources than BP and those resources should have been deployed from the first day, not nine days after the explosion

The President’s six-hour visit does not offer much satisfaction to our fishing industry which has been shutdown by this incident. Approximately 30% of the seafood consumed in this nation comes through the wetlands of Louisiana, so this disaster will impact retailers, restaurant owners and consumers throughout the country. 

Today, the estimates are that the well is leaking 5,000 barrels per day, but the President’s point person for the disaster Coast Guard Commander Adm. Thad Allen said the leak could increase 2,000% to an unimaginable level of 100,000 barrels per day. The environmental consequences of such a monumental mountain of oil are too scary to contemplate.

The massive oil spill threatens the economy and environment of this region. It will lead to billions of dollars in damages. Sadly, it did not capture the attention of the President until nine catastrophic days had elapsed. If this disaster had occurred off the coast of New York or California or any blue state, there is little doubt that President Obama would have been more proactive.

This massive explosion should have been priority number one for this administration from April 20 onward, but, unfortunately, politics and other trivial pursuits, occupied the time of the President until a wake-up call on April 29. In the nine days that elapsed, precious time was lost and a containment problem became a clean-up nightmare.

Obama’s response to the oil explosion was so tardy that he actually accomplished the impossible. He made George Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina seem downright timely.

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