People who have never wished the Obama administration well are smacking their lips in glee because they believe the BP oil spill will be as politically damaging to the president as it is environmentally harmful to the Gulf Coast.
“I don’t see how the president’s position and popularity can survive the oil spill,” said former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who suggested in her Wall Street Journal column Tuesday that Republicans shouldn’t be too quick to dance on Obama’s grave.
The Republican political hierarchy, though, sees only opportunity in Obama’s mishandling of this crisis. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to express regret that BP’s oil rig exploded after Obama, seeking bipartisan support of his energy bill, pledged allegiance to the Republican position that more U.S. waters should be open to offshore drilling.
Maybe finding himself on the wrong side of the drilling issue is why Obama’s response to the spill that began April 20 has been so inadequate. He took too long before visiting the ecologically damaged area on May 2. For too long, he left the impression that BP was unilaterally calling the shots on plugging the gushing pipeline.
It is especially hard to see how Obama could have miscalculated public reaction to his perceived aloofness, given the damage to President George W. Bush’s political standing after he similarly was tardy in paying attention to the same Gulf states after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to the coast Tuesday to meet with federal and state prosecutors to discuss possible criminal, civil or environmental charges in connection with the explosion that also left 11 people dead. That’s fine, but the focus now should be on stopping the oil.
In that same vein, it provided little comfort to the people who depend on the coastal waters for their incomes to see Obama announce Tuesday that he was appointing a commission, similar to the panel that probed the 1986 space shuttle Challenger explosion, to look into the BP oil spill.
Finger-pointing is what you do after an event is over. That’s not yet the case. Oil is still flowing from the damaged pipe, and none of BP’s efforts to stop it have worked. If the latest idea fails, it could be August before the leak is finally plugged. By then, Alabama and Mississippi will have joined Louisiana with spoiled beaches.
“What’s being threatened – what’s being lost – isn’t just the source of income, but a way of life; not just fishable waters, but a national treasure,” Obama said Tuesday. Yes, the stakes are high for the environment and the economy. But they’re also high for him.
-The Philadelphia Inquirer