May 27, 2010

Obama's Square Circle

"This notion somehow that the federal government is sitting on the sidelines and for the last three or four or five weeks we've just been letting BP make the decisions is not true. Those who think we are either slow on our response or lacked urgency don't know the facts."

- President Barack Obama, defending the White House’s handling of the BP oil spill, though he seems to know the facts are as murky as oily water. The New York Times reports:

“He was wrong, he said, to assume that oil companies were prepared for the worst as he tried to expand offshore drilling. His team did not move with ‘sufficient urgency’ to reform regulation of the industry. In dealing with BP, his administration ‘should have pushed them sooner’ to provide images of the leak, and ‘it took too long for us’ to measure the size of the spill.”

He admitted, “In case you’re wondering who’s responsible, I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen right away or the way I’d like it to happen. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to make mistakes.”

Yet he added, “But there shouldn’t be any confusion here. The federal government is fully engaged, and I’m fully engaged. The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort.”

Conversely, “There wasn’t sufficient urgency in terms of the pace of how those changes needed to take place. Obviously they weren’t happening fast enough. If they were happening fast enough, this might have been caught.”

Not sure how this all fits together. Even an urgent response to the spill itself, which has experienced problems in most accounts other than Obama’s, would be negated by a lack of urgency towards regulations. Obama admits had he acted faster “this might have been caught,” and yet praises his response nonetheless.

"I'm confident that people are going to look back and say that this administration was on top of what was an unprecedented crisis.”

With George Bush and Hurricane Katrina on his mind since the beginning and visible in his actions, Obama’s sincerity comes further into question when he claims, "I'll leave it to you guys to make those comparisons and make - and make - and make judgments on it, because — because what I'm spending my time thinking about is how do we solve the problem?”

Whatever the case, Obama can't afford to wait any longer for regulatory reform now that he's called himself out. This will prove another test - after the not-so-successful financial reform - of his campaign promise to clean up Washington's connection with corporations.

Of course we can’t help ourselves when he says, "My job right now is just to make sure everybody in the Gulf understands: This is what I wake up to in the morning, and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about. The spill."

Might help explain his personal non-engagement of US foreign policy, though that started before the spill.

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