There are many avenues to pursue. Here are two: the oil company’s response, and Mr. Obama’s. The company, BP, seems to have been slow to ask for help, and, on Friday, both federal and state officials accused it of not moving aggressively or swiftly enough. Yet the administration should not have waited, and should have intervened much more quickly on its own initiative.
A White House as politically attuned as this one should have been conscious of two obvious historical lessons. One was the Exxon Valdez, where a late and lame response by both industry and the federal government all but destroyed one of the country’s richest fishing grounds and ended up costing billions of dollars. The other was President George W. Bush’s hapless response to Hurricane Katrina.
Now we have another disaster in more or less the same neck of the woods, and it takes the administration more than a week to really get moving.
The timetable is damning. The blowout occurred on April 20. In short order, fire broke out on the rig, taking 11 lives, the rig collapsed and oil began leaking at a rate of 40,000 gallons a day. BP tried but failed to plug the well. Even so, BP appears to have remained confident that it could handle the situation with private resources (as did the administration) until Wednesday night, when, at a hastily called news conference, the Coast Guard quintupled its estimate of the leak to 5,000 barrels, or more than 200,000 gallons a day.
Only then did the administration move into high gear.
Not to be the only one jumping off the blame-Obama’s-slow-response bandwagon, but this criticism is just a bit unfair. If Obama really is to blame for his slow response, then how does the Times explain its slow response when their April 24 editorial on the spill had no criticism of Obama’s response nor any criticism of BP? Not even a, “hey, are we doing everything we can to make sure this thing doesn’t start leaking?”
Just like I don’t think President Bush deserved much of the blame he received for the Federal response to Katrina, I don’t think similar statements are fair to President Obama.