…over the Gulf oil spill. HIs latest is embarrassing:
Now he’s looking to “kick someone’s ass.” Yeah, that’ll help. The truth is that Obama’s performance with regard to the spill, and that of the federal government generally, has been terrible. They had a plan for dealing with Gulf spills, but didn’t follow it. They were slow to recognize the severity of the spill; it took nine days before the feds even offered assistance to British Petroleum. A dozen federal agencies are involved in the response, which reportedly has led to confusion and delay:
Under intense media scrutiny, at least a dozen federal agencies have taken part in the spill response, making decision-making slow, conflicted and confused, as they sought to apply numerous federal statutes.
In one stark example of government disputes, internal e-mail messages from the minerals agency obtained by The Times reveal a heated debate over whether to ignore some federal environmental laws about gas emissions in an effort to speed the drilling of relief wells.
Louisiana officials spent most of the month of May trying to convince various federal authorities to allow them to construct berms to defend their shore against the spill. It took the better part of the month for the feds to finally approve a single berm.
Against this background, it is rather pathetic for Obama–apparently taking Spike Lee’s advice–to go around threatening to “kick ass.” Maybe he could concentrate on focusing the federal bureaucracy, ostensibly under his command, on responding to the spill in an organized manner.
In this morning’s Examiner, Byron York argues that Obama’s lack of executive experience has come home to roost:
Running a first-rate campaign, Obama and his supporters argued, showed that Obama could run the federal government, even at its most testing moments. He could set goals, demand accountability, and, perhaps most importantly, bend the sprawling federal bureaucracy to his will.
Fast forward to 2010. The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is gushing out of control. The Obama administration is at first slow to see the seriousness of the accident. Then, as the crisis becomes clear, the federal bureaucracy becomes entangled in itself trying to deal with the problem. …
For example, it took the Department of Homeland Security more than a week to classify the spill as an event calling for the highest level of federal action. And when state officials in Louisiana tried over and over to win federal permission to build sand barriers to protect fragile coastal wetlands from the oil, they got nowhere. “For three weeks, as the giant slick crept closer to shore,” the Times reports, “officials from the White House, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency debated the best approach.”
The bureaucracy wasn’t bending to anyone’s will. The direction from the top was not clear. And accountability? So far, the only head that has rolled during the Gulf crisis has been that of Minerals Management Service chief Elizabeth Birnbaum. But during a May 27 news conference, Obama admitted he didn’t even know whether she had resigned or been fired. “I found out about it this morning, so I don’t yet know the circumstances,” the president said. “And [Interior Secretary] Ken Salazar’s been in testimony on the Hill.” Obama’s answer revealed that he hadn’t fired Birnbaum, and he couldn’t reach a member of his Cabinet who was a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue.
The cows are pretty much out of the barn as far as the spill is concerned, even if British Petroleum finally gets it under control. The story will continue to unfold, it appears, for months to come as the oil swirls around the Gulf and perhaps up the Atlantic coast. At this point, there probably isn’t much Obama can do about it, other than try to refrain from making a fool of himself.
UPDATE: Sarah Palin offers Obama some friendly advice. Rub his nose in it harder, Sarah!