NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal uses a new book to portray President Barack Obama as disconnected from the Gulf oil spill, charging that he was more focused on the political aftermath than the actual impact of the crisis.
Jindal recounts a pair of private conversations with the president that paint him as consumed with how his actions were being perceived.
On Obama’s first trip to Louisiana after the disaster, the governor describes how the president took him aside on the tarmac after arriving to complain about a letter that Jindal had sent to the administration requesting authorization for food stamps for those who had lost their jobs because of the spill.
As Jindal describes it, the letter was entirely routine, yet Obama was angry and concerned about looking bad.
“Careful,” he quotes the president as warning him, “this is going to get bad for everyone.”
Nearby on the tarmac, Jindal recalls, then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was chewing out his own chief of staff, Timmy Teepell.
“If you have a problem pick up the f——n’ phone,” Jindal quotes Emanuel telling Teepell.
The governor asserts that the White House had tipped off reporters to watch the exchange on the New Orleans tarmac that Sunday in May and deemed it a “press stunt” that symbolized what’s wrong with Washington.
“Political posturing becomes more important than reality,” he writes.
What might explain why Obama and Emanuel were so angry at Jindal is that the governor released his food stamp request the previous day to the media and indicated that he wanted a response by the close of business Monday.
And after Obama instituted a moratorium on offshore drilling, Jindal recounts that the president dismissed his concerns about the economic impact of the ban.
“I understand you need to say all of this, I know you need to say this, that you are facing political pressure,” Jindal quotes Obama telling him. When the governor said he was concerned about people losing their jobs, he said the president cited national polls showing that people supported the ban.
“The human element seemed invisible to the White House,” he writes.
Asked to respond to Jindal's assertions, Obama aides didn’t directly address either conversation but pointed to the president’s overall response to the spill.
“From Day One, President Obama has directed his administration to work with state and local governments to respond to and help Gulf communities recover from the BP oil spill,” said White House spokesman Adam Abrams. “The administration’s response was the largest response to an environmental disaster in our nation’s history and incl