I could wring 10 posts out of that oil spill of a press conference but any more than three would be cruel to you guys, I think. So here’s the first golden moment, which even some lefties were laughing at on Twitter. After solemnly insisting that “the federal government is fully engaged and I’m fully engaged,” The One admits he’s … not quite sure what happened with the head of MMS this morning because he was busy with a bunch of other important stuff at the time. Like, for instance, meeting with the Duke basketball team. In fairness, it’s not entirely clear even now whether Birnbaum jumped or was pushed: Officially she resigned but sources tell CNN she was fired. Even so, given the growing public contempt for MMS’s embarrassingly shoddy oversight, I’m amazed he didn’t seize this as an opportunity for a “damn right I ordered the code red on Birnbaum” moment. On a day when the public’s desperately looking for authority and accountability, he’s flatly admitting that he’s out of the loop. Great work, champ. No wonder critics as far afield as Karl Rove and USA Today are whispering the dreaded K-word.
WaPo writers are touting the fact that he officially “owns” the spill now and Chris Matthews continues to hammer him on MSNBC, all of which I’m happy to play along with politically, but I’m a little hazy on what precisely people want him to do that BP isn’t already doing. Jindal criticized him over the weekend for being too slow in approving materials needed to build oil barriers for the coast, so that’s one thing. But I think our favorite liberal has it right: Most of The One’s negligence here happened before the BP rig exploded, not after.
Turns out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration back in 1994 drafted plans for responding to a major Gulf oil spill, a response called “In-Situ Burn.”
Ron Gourget, a former federal oil-spill-response coordinator and one author of the draft, told the Times of London: “The whole reason the plan was created was so that we could pull the trigger right away.” The idea was to use barriers called “fire booms” to collect and contain the spill at sea — then burn it off. He believes this could have captured 95 percent of the oil from this spill.
But at the time of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the federal government didn’t have a single fire boom on hand. Nor is there any evidence that the government required BP to have any clear plan to deal with a massive spill. How is this OK?