Video: Noted finger-pointer tired of all the finger-pointing

Even CBS’s White House correspondent can’t quite stomach the irony.

Since when does the BlameBush administration point fingers?

President Obama may have decried finger-pointing today, but he also did a fair amount of it himself. Not only at the three [oil] companies, but at previous administrations…

“For too long, for a decade or more, there has been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies. That cannot and will not happen anymore.” (watch the video at left)

“A decade or more” clearly encompasses the Bush Administration, and may include the Clinton years too. But Mr. Obama’s been president for nearly 16 months. Does he get at least a little piece of the blame?

According to The One? No, of course not. According to his favorite newspaper? Why, yes, as a matter of fact. Obama’s right about a cozy relationship between oil companies and regulators, but per today’s Times timeline, that problem didn’t suddenly end on January 20, 2009. On the contrary:

The federal Minerals Management Service gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.

Those approvals, federal records show, include one for the well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and resulting in thousands of barrels of oil spilling into the gulf each day…

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is partly responsible for protecting endangered species and marine mammals. It has said on repeated occasions that drilling in the gulf affects these animals, but the minerals agency since January 2009 has approved at least three huge lease sales, 103 seismic blasting projects and 346 drilling plans. Agency records also show that permission for those projects and plans was granted without getting the permits required under federal law…

In a letter from September 2009, obtained by The New York Times, NOAA accused the minerals agency of a pattern of understating the likelihood and potential consequences of a major spill in the gulf and understating the frequency of spills that have already occurred there.

It’s astounding to me that he was willing to go out on a limb with his base by endorsing offshore drilling without first making sure that he wasn’t exposed to elevated risk of a spill. But then, passing the buck is just a Rose Garden press conference away. To his credit, he reaffirmed his support for drilling today — not a big surprise since the public’s still gung ho too — but as news about the leak moves from bad to worse to mind-bogglingly awful, I wonder how sturdy that’ll be. The latest estimate from NPR: The leak’s not spilling 5,000 barrels a day, as thought, but 70,000 barrels a day. The total leak from the Exxon Valdez measured just 250,000 barrels. We’re averaging … two Exxon Valdezes a week?