The Corner

Obama Knew Birnbaum Was Fired

How could he not have? At his presser today, the president claimed that he did not know whether the head of the Minerals Management Service, Elizabeth Birnbaum, had resigned or was fired. Obama said he didn’t know because he was engaged all morning and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was busy giving testimony on Capitol Hill.

But the president also said that he received multiple daily updates on the Gulf situation and described it as his “top priority.” Now the NYT reports this:

S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, who took over as director of the Minerals Management Service last July, announced her resignation Thursday morning after being asked by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to relinquish her post.

So Obama’s point man in the Gulf fires a key oil regulator without first clearing it — or even mentioning it — to the president during one of their numerous briefings? Fat chance.

It is a dumb and unnecessary lie, the kind that makes Obama look like either an out-of-the-loop over-delegator or a weak-willed Mr. Nice Guy afraid to take the rap for a firing — in short, like Michael Scott.

But the president’s fib fit right in with the weird disassociative tone of the press conference, in which he blamed as much as he could on Bush (without ever mentioning him by name) and used detached, impersonal phrases like “they” and “the current administration” to describe his own executive, even as he made a show of “taking responsibility” for the crisis. (Funny how it was BP’s show for the 30+ days before and became Obama’s baby as soon as a plausible method for stopping the leak went into action).

I happen to agree with every word of Yuval’s post deconstructing the idea that this is “Obama’s Katrina,” but that doesn’t make it the president’s finest hour, either.

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