The White House appears resigned to living with the BP oil spill for some time to come. But that’s not surprising—since President Obama and his team were briefed from the outset that the blowout at the Deepwater Horizons rig was epic in scope—and would not be fixable for a long, long time.
Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, told Obama in late April that the blowout would likely lead to an unprecedented environmental disaster, a senior White House aide told The Daily Beast. Browner warned that capping a well at such depths had never been done before, and that they ought to expect an oil spill that would continue until a relief well was drilled in August, the aide said. (Browner’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment).
That bleak prognosis, delivered so early on, has infused Obama’s senior team with a sense of fatalism about the spill from the start. Little that has happened since has changed their mindset. Now six weeks later, the president’s top advisers expect the oil spill – and the negative stories – to continue through August.
That’s from frequent Olbermann guest Richard Wolffe. I’m not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, no less than the New York Times op-ed page was ripping Obama for being slow off the mark in dealing with the spill as far back as April 30. On the other hand, if he really is powerless to do anything because the feds simply don’t have the expertise to cap a well the way BP does, what was he supposed to have done after Browner briefed him? He could have given a national address right away leveling with the public about the potential magnitude of the disaster — he was Captain Transparency during the campaign — but why risk that when there was still hope at the time that BP could get things under control relatively quickly? It would have been an invitation for greens to rip on him and other supporters of drilling before there was any confirmation yet that the disaster was unprecedented. He could have skipped all the happy happy joy joy photo ops at the White House Correspondents Dinner and beyond, but those are at least instances of him doing “stuff,” even if it’s really stupid stuff. Sitting around all day looking worried would only heighten the perception of how powerless he is. Weird as it may sound, rocking out to “Hey Jude” is probably better for his re-election chances than pics of him sitting at his desk with his hands folded, waiting for BP to call with an update.
The real disgrace here is why, if he really did know right away that this was the oil equivalent of an asteroid strike, he didn’t scramble some sort of all-hands-on-deck emergency operation to protect the coastline. Remember, Jindal reportedly requested five million feet of hard boom back on May 2, long after Obama (according to Wolffe) knew about the magnitude of the disaster. By May 24, not even 800,000 feet had arrived. What happened?