What Obama Didn’t Say Last Night


What Obama Didn’t Say

June 15, 2010 – 9:10 pm
Brian WingfieldBio | Email
Brian Wingfield is Washington Bureau Chief of Forbes 

In his first televised Oval Office speech, a Tuesday night message to the nation on the government’s response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama said exactly what everyone expected.

He assured the country that his administration is in control of the cleanup and laid out a plan going forward. He had tough words for BP, which operated the rig that caused the spill, and vowed to make the company pay for the damage it has caused. He empathized with the people of the Gulf Coast and promised to revive their economies. He pledged to overhaul the agency that regulates offshore drilling, and seized upon the opportunity to talk up clean energy investment and legislation.

But what the president didn’t say is worth examining as well.

What he said: “In the coming days and weeks, [the response] efforts should capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of the well.  This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely.”

–In other words, it’s impossible to stop the geyser of crude at the bottom of the Gulf before late summer.

“The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years. … As the clean up continues, we will offer whatever additional resources and assistance our coastal states may need.”

–How long will this take? What types of resources will the Gulf states need? How much is it going to cost? Will BP pay for everything?

“Tomorrow I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.  And this fund will not be controlled by BP.  In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party.”

 –How much will the company set aside to pay for damages? How will this be enforced? How will the third party be selected?

“Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, a former governor of Mississippi, and a son of the Gulf, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible.  The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents.”

 –Again, how much is this expected to cost? How will it be implemented?

“A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe – that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken…That was obviously not the case on the Deepwater Horizon rig and I want to know why?”

–Who provided this assurance? Oil companies? Regulatory officials? Why didn’t Interior Secretary Ken Salazar catch this?

To be sure, Tuesday night’s address wasn’t the format for Obama to answer these questions. He deliberately chose the Oval Office to make his remarks. The venue conveys the gravity of the situation–presidents typically use the office for solemn addresses. But it also has the added bonus of keeping out reporters, who will pepper the president with questions.

Consider Tuesday night’s address a turning of the page in this crisis for the Obama administration. It’s fairly clear that the oil will spew throughout the summer. The administration has outlined the efforts it plans to take in the coming months. Earlier Tuesday, the president tapped Michael Browmich, a former federal prosecutor and Justice Department inspector general, to lead the beleaguered Minerals Management Service, the Interior Department agency that regulates and oversees offshore oil drilling. Wednesday, the president meets with BP officials including company chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, and Thursday BP CEO Tony Hayward testifies before a congressional panel.

President Obama used his address to get his feet back under him. But now the long journey to cleaning up the Gulf begins.

Published in: on June 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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