TIMELINE: Obama golfs while Gulf burns

Mike Riggs Contributor
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Critics have called the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion “Obama’s Katrina,” and argued that the disaster could signal the decline of Obama’s presidency. Their evidence? The president is visiting the affected areas for just a second time*— 38 days after the Deepwater burst into flames. Below you’ll find a parallel of timeline juxtaposing the tragedy in the gulf and the president’s golf games.

April 22: The Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, which had been burning for two days, sinks into the gulf. President Obama, after speaking in New York about the significance of financial regulatory legislation, hosts an Earth Day celebration in the Rose Garden.

April 23: The U.S. Coastguard pronounces 11 Deepwater workers dead after traveling almost 2,000 miles throughout the gulf in search of their bodies. The president and First Lady Michelle Obama travel to North Carolina for a brief vacation, where they enjoy BBQ.

April 24: Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry announces that the Deepwater wellhead is spewing crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The president and first lady continue to enjoy their vacation in North Carolina.

April 26: A remote sub fails to stop the leak. Just four days after the explosion, the spill covers an area the size of Rhode Island. After hosting a ceremony for the New York Yankees, Obama travels to Andrews Air Force Base for a game of golf.

April 28: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pegs the leak rate at 5,000 barrels a day — up from BP’s claim of 1,000 barrels a day. Obama leaves Iowa and spends the day in Illinois, where he speaks to the owner of a family farm. He then visits a biofuel plant where he picks up mechanical parts and pretends to be interested in them.

April 29: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declares a state of emergency, as the spill “now covers a 600-square-mile area” and “is about 16 miles off the state’s coast.” Obama delivers remarks in Washington on the importance of cybersecurity. Later in the day, he attends a FEMA meeting about hurricane preparedness.

May 1: The U.S. military lends BP two C-130 aircraft to release potentially dangerous chemical dispersants over the oil spill. Obama tells jokes at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, including one about killing the Jonas Brothers using CIA drones.

May 2: Obama makes a quick trip to Louisiana to “get a firsthand view of the recovery efforts.”

May 3: Alabama Attorney General Troy King demands that BP stop asking fisherman to sign complicated agreements that would severely limit the amount BP would be forced to compensate them for the loss of their livelihood. Obama hosts dinner for the Business Council, “a group of current or former chief executive officers from a broad range of companies.”

May 8: BP’s containment dome, thought by many to be one of the environmentally safest solutions, fills with ice and fails to stop the leak. Obama plays golf at Arkansas’s Fort Belvoir.

May 9: The first tar balls wash up on Dauphin Island off the coast of Alabama. Obama delivers the commencement address at Virginia’s Hampton University.

May 12: Under pressure from journalists and government agencies, British Petroleum releases a short video of the wellhead, located one mile beneath the gulf surface. Using independent analysts, NPR determines from the video that at 50,000 barrels a day, the leak rate is 10 times higher than NOAA’s estimate and 50 times higher than BP’s early claim. Obama spends the morning with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. After lunch, Obama retires to the Oval Office with his advisers.

May 17: While BP attempts to siphon oil into a special tube, scientists warn that the oil is headed for the Gulf Stream, which would carry it around the southern tip of Florida and into the Atlantic Ocean. Obama hosts the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team.

May 18: Tar balls wash up on the shores of Key West, Fla. Obama tours a factory in Ohio. Later in the day, he meets with Jewish members of the Democratic Caucuses.

May 21: ABC News reports that in the course of one month, enough oil has spilled to “fill enough gallon milk jugs to stretch more than 11,300 miles. That’s more than the distance from New York to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and back.” Obama signs a presidential memorandum “outlining the next steps in his vision for cleaner, more efficient vehicles.”

May 22: Wildlife officials in Louisiana tell the Associated Press that they are considering setting the state’s fragile marshes on fire in an effort to staunch the contaminating effects of the oil. White House officials announce that they are beginning a multi-year renovation project for the north side of the White House. Obama delivers the commencement address at the Military Academy at West Point.

May 26: BP announced yet another plan for stopping the spill, a maneuver called “Top Kill” that involves pumping mud into the Deepwater wellhead in order to clog it. This same day, officials begin pulling fisherman off the gulf due to toxic oil fumes. Obama hosts the U.S. World Cup soccer team and the Duke men’s basketball team.

May 28: Obama makes only his second visit to a grief-stricken Louisiana before heading on vacation.


*An earlier version of this story said that Pres. Obama was visiting the coastal regions for the first time today. Additionally, the article originally incorrectly stated that the president hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in the White House on May 21. These mistakes have been corrected.