President Obama wishes everyone would stop talking about the oil spill. His federal government’s response has been incompetent at best, malevolent at worst. Yet, lacking any evidence of a credible response, Obama still sent Carol Browner to the Gulf on a victory lap last week after oil stopped appearing on beaches and the water’s surface. But while the Obama administration is doing victory laps, more news of their botched efforts are coming to light.
Case in point: reports out today show that the government tried to silence scientists from the University of South Florida who had discovered a 6-mile-wide plume of oil in the deepest recesses of the Gulf.
USF Marine Sciences Dean William Hogarth told the St. Petersburg Times: “I got lambasted by the Coast Guard and NOAA when we said there was undersea oil.” He further said that government officials told him to retract any public statements and compared it to being “beat up” by the government.
According to the Times, Hogarth was not the only one bullied by the Obama administration. Oceanographers at the University of Southern Mississippi drew similar conclusions about underwater plumes. Oceanographer Vernon Asper said: “We expected that NOAA would be very pleased…NOAA instead responded by trying to discredit us.”
Why would the Obama administration try to silence environmental scientists? Because its victory lap would be less victorious if millions of barrels of oil are still lurking in the Gulf.
Mother Nature, though, might throw a wrench in the president’s oil spill cleanup cover-up machine. If a hurricane hits, the oil that lurks beneath the deep dark see will surely become evident. But what happens then?
The AP reported on Monday that if a hurricane hits the Gulf and oil is displaced onto land, a “new Obama administration edict requires that the oil be tested before it can be cleaned.” Translation? That means even further delays in the oil spill cleanup.
Let’s put that in perspective: 1) The Obama administration wasted months of clear weather delaying skimmers, barriers and clean-up responses, leaving the Gulf vulnerable to oil being washed ashore in hurricane season; and 2) The Obama administration now won’t allow residents to even clean the oil ‘onshore’ that their incompetence allowed to happen.
This is simply incredible. Or, as LSU Environmental Studies Professor Ed Overton said: “This is insane. You don’t have to hold up the cleanup just because you’re waiting on a crazy lab analysis.” Former FEMA Director David Paulison agreed, saying: “I just don’t believe it’s a workable plan.”
The government claims this step is necessary to determine that the oil is actually a result of the BP spill so it can be reimbursed for any response. Y’know, in case the oil happens to be from that oil spill in Michigan last month. As the AP reports: “[I]t also could cause frustrating delays and prevent residents from returning to their homes while the government figures out who pays the bill.”
Residents of the Gulf have had enough of this bureaucratic neglect. Charlotte Randolph, president of the Lafourche Parish, La., told the AP she will have it cleaned up, regardless of government edict. Randolph said: “The assumption will be that the oil belongs to BP…I don’t care what the federal government says.”
And that sums up the total response in a nutshell. State and local residents have continually taken matters into their own hands to direct resources and manage response, while the White House has made a show of eating Gulf shrimp on the South Lawn.
But it doesn’t stop there. Today, after 57 days of silence from President Obama and BP, details of their backroom liability deal have emerged from the White House. (Parenthetically, 57 days is apparently the new standard of White House transparency.) These latest details again prompt us to consider how little of the $20 billion BP oil spill relief fund will actually reach victims of the spill.
As The Heritage Foundation reported in July, BP is claiming a tax deduction worth roughly $9.9 billion as a result of the backroom deal. This means that taxpayers are either now on the hook for part of the costs of cleanup, if costs truly reach $20 billion, or that another negotiation is necessary. The White House has failed to answer this question, likely because nobody in the White House press briefing room has asked it.
President Obama knows better than anyone that he has failed the residents of the Gulf. That is why he refuses to step foot in Louisiana, where his job-destroying drilling moratorium continues to take place, despite his own assurances that the spill was overblown and the oil has dissipated.
Instead, President Obama will spend one night in Florida with the hospitable Governor Charlie Crist (I) who, like the White House press, will not ask him any tough questions. While this political trip may deflect criticism of the president’s Maine vacation last month, the first lady’s vacation in Spain this month, the president’s vacation in Chicago this month or their planned Martha’s Vineyard vacation later this month, it will not display any empathy for the tragedy he has helped create.
After ignoring two federal court decisions, the Obama administration is once again returning to federal court this week to try to keep his economy-crushing moratorium in place. The current re-issued federal language applies to all floating rigs in the Gulf. Entire cities are losing jobs and livelihoods due to the moratorium — not the spill — and yet President Obama continues to show a callous disregard for the economic catastrophe he has created.
You can count on one hand the number of times President Obama has addressed the crisis in the Gulf since his bungled Oval Office speech. During that time the federal government has failed the residents of the Gulf time after time. It’s time the Obama White House be held responsible for the worst federal disaster response in our nation’s history.
Rory Cooper is the Director of Strategic Communications at The Heritage Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @rorycooper.