Exclusive: Senator LeMieux says he sees "no leadership" from Obama on Gulf disaster

Earlier today, I spoke with Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) about the current state of affairs in the Gulf disaster and the federal response, and the Senator did not mince words. When asked about the government’s response, LeMieux stated, “I’m exasperated with the federal response” in the Gulf. I asked about his assessment of Barack Obama’s performance, and LeMieux replied, “I don’t see leadership from President Obama.” LeMieux says that no one seems to know who’s in charge or where the assets are, and states like Florida have simply started responding on their own instead:

Here’s a short transcript of the start of the show:

Q: Welcoming to the show for the first time Senator George LeMieux – welcome to the show, sir.

A: Thanks for having me on, Ed.

Q: It’s a pleasure to have you on, and we’ve posted the video of your full speech on the Senate floor today, but, why don’t you tell us a little more about what’s going on, because we’re hearing different things about the federal response and the Gulf. You had Governor Crist today saying that he was actually pretty happy with the response that was going on there, and folks in other states that they’re not happy with it. Governor Jindal is extremely unhappy with the federal response, and you are noticing that there are resources that aren’t being applied here. Why don’t you give us an idea of what’s actually happening down there.

A: Well, Ed, I’m exasperated with the federal response, really the lack of the federal response. The thing that I’ve been so shocked by is the lack of skimmers off of our coast. These are these vessels, these ships that can suck up the oil and the water and remove it before it gets on our beaches and gets into our coastal waterways. I met with the President last week, a week ago today in Pensacola, along with Admiral [Thad] Allen and Governor [Charlie] Crist and some other folks, federal and state officials, and at that time we had 32 skimmers off the coast of Florida, which to me is amazing in how little it is. Today, it’s only 20 skimmers, and I can’t even get a straight answer —

Q: We have fewer?

A: — to be honest with you, from the Coast Guard, as to how many of these vessels are actually operating. And we find out now from Admiral Allen that there are two thousand skimmers in the United States. We have not gotten around to, as the federal government, asking for them or processing them to get them to the Gulf Coast. At least 21 offers from foreign countries have come in. It really looks like it’s actually 56 now, that number’s a little old, and we’re not accepting their offers of assistance. We had a Dutch company come in and offer us a huge vessel that could be used for skimming, a vessel that could take up to 20 thousand tons of oil and water off the Gulf, and bring that it and process it out so it’s out of the ocean, and it was — they never got a call back from the federal government. Instead, a much smaller vessel that is flagged — an American-flagged vessel was used, one that only had one-twentieth of the capability. I’m just so frustrated because I can’t get a straight answer, I can’t see any sense of urgency yet in this administration. When I meet with the Navy and the Coast Guard, no one seems to be in charge. We’re the greatest country in the world and we can’t marshal the resources to suck up this oil before it gets on our beaches. So I keep sounding off. Thank you for posting the speech today, because it’s just beyond belief what lack of focus and lack of urgency there is in addressing this problem.

I may add to this transcript later, but watch the entire show. LeMieux is in no mood to let anyone off the hook. Later, LeMieux discusses the Jones Act and his anger over the confusion within the Obama administration whether it’s in force or not, telling me that “this is no time for protectionism.” Don’t miss it.