News Columns & Blogs

Pro-con: Is Obama to blame for oil spill mistakes?

The spill has become the worst in U.S. history — and ham-handed administration incompetence has now reached such levels that the "Obama's Katrina" trope has begun to resonate. Thursday, for example, the president assured the nation that his administration is on top of the crisis. Yet, bizarrely, Obama also said that he didn't know the details of the departure that morning of Elizabeth Birnbaum, head of the Minerals Management Service, the oil regulatory agency. The president also said he retains "confidence" in Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — the fellow whose foot-dragging on emergency measures urgently being sought by Louisiana officials is fomenting anger there. On Wednesday, Salazar told a House committee that Louisiana's request to build sand barriers to protect marshes threatened by oil was still "under consideration" — nearly two weeks after Gov. Bobby Jindal made the request. Obama finally gave the go-ahead to build the sand barriers Thursday — but only for half of the 86 miles requested. It's not fair to blame Washington for the oil leak, or even for BP's slowness in plugging it. But minimizing the damage most definitely is Washington's responsibility — and, so far, the administration has failed to measure up. — New York Post editorial

President Obama was effective Thursday in dispelling the overall impression that he and his administration were hostages of BP. While the oil company is responsible for plugging the hole, cleaning up the mess and paying the hefty tab that comes with all that, it is not making a move without the involvement, buy-in and sign-off from a very engaged Obama administration. Obama took ownership of the oil spill with this comment: "This notion that the federal government has been sitting on the sidelines and, for the last three or four or five weeks, we've just been letting BP make a whole bunch of the decisions, it's simply not true." And then the president rattled off a litany of statistics and actions that have taken place since he convened officials in the Oval Office within hours of the April 20 explosion. And an independent commission has been formed to advise the president on how to prevent what is now among the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history from happening again. — Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post's PostPartisan blog