Oil Spill: Like Exxon Valdez with Katrina-like Political Implications?

77833_600.jpg

The mega-big oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico has now sparked predictions that it could end up being even worse than 1989′s record-setting Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska’s coast — and if not handled correctly turn out to be a political problem for President Barack Obama’s own. Talk radio political culture maven Rush Limbaugh was quick to immediately call it “Obama’s Katrina” — which means the phrase will be likelyi duplicated on some other radio and cable shows and on some partisan Internet sites.

But whether it has proven to be that yet, remains be seen. Right now — as of this writing — comparing bipartisan criticism aimed at the Bush administration over Katrina and Limbaugh’s comment is like comparing apples and snake-oil-slicked oranges.

At reality: a massive oil spill is snaking its way to pose a real danger to the coast and the environment. It will most assuredlyh renew and heighten the debate and controversy over the need and wisdom of offshore drilling. The questions will occur: is the federal government doing enough and did it do enough in the early stages? Expect the question to beasked on a grave environmental development that has sparked news stories such as this.

[UPDATES: Reuters reports that another oil rig has overturned in Louisiana..)

MSNBC:

As oil from the massive leak in the Gulf of Mexico started to ooze into coastal wetlands along Louisiana, the state's governor said cleanup efforts were "not effective" and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano urged BP to deploy even more resources.

"We will continue to push BP to engage in the strongest possible response," Napolitano told reporters at a joint news conference in Robert, La.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal earlier called up 6,000 National Guard troops to help, a day after declaring a state of emergency so officials could begin preparing for the oil's impact.

The wide leak threatens wildlife along fragile islands and barrier marshes and puts one of the world's richest seafood grounds in peril.

The first oil-coated bird found by crews was cleaned up Friday. Workers with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, which is based in Delaware, used Dawn blue dishwashing soap to scrub the oil off the young Northern Gannet. The detergent is commonly used to clean animals.

he rescue center says the bird was found offshore, not on the shoreline.

The bird is normally white with a yellow head and long, pointed beak but was covered in thick, black oil. The rescuers cleaned the bird at Fort Jackson, a historic landmark about 70 miles southeast of New Orleans.

It was the only animal being cleaned late Friday morning, but rescuers expected many more to come in throughout the day.

--Bloomberg:

U.S. Interior Department inspectors began boarding deep-water platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana mobilized the National Guard as an expanding oil slick that may rival the Exxon Valdez spill approached the coast.

Future drilling must safeguard against a recurrence, President Barack Obama said today in remarks at the White House, promising a “thorough review” of the BP Plc well leak the government estimates is spewing 5,000 barrels a day.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was ordered to report in 30 days the additional precautions needed, Obama said. The department’s Minerals Management Service, regulator of offshore drilling, is focusing on the blowout preventer, equipment used by all drillers that should have prevented the spill and an explosion that resulted in the death of 11 people, Mike Saucier, an agency spokesman, said yesterday at a press conference.

The oill spill is putting more than 600 species at risk. President Barack Obama held a quickly called press brieifing to say his administration is doing "everything necessary" to combat the oil spill:
YouTube Preview Image


Reuters notes the political context:

A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is unfolding just as the U.S. Senate was on the verge of considering climate change legislation that included an expansion of offshore oil drilling.

A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is unfolding just as the U.S. Senate was on the verge of considering climate change legislation that included an expansion of offshore oil drilling.

Reuters notes possible impacts in the following areas: puts climate bill in deep freeze; triggers more protections; boots nuclear power; boosts renewable energy; and boosts immigration reform:

The oil spill becomes one more impediment to passing a comprehensive climate bill this year, so Senate Democrats shift their attention to immigration reform as their next, big initiative in this election year.

“Immigration has pretty formally jumped the queue here,” said the Senate Democratic source, who added that if the Senate complete only one more major initiative after Wall Street reform, immigration will “be the bill we do this year.”

ITN News offers this report:
YouTube Preview Image

Here’s a reminder of the Exxon Valdez tragedy:
YouTube Preview Image

And the impact of the Valdez on Alaska:
YouTube Preview Image

The Political Psychic Award of the Day goes to the New York Time’s Paul Krugman who predicted Limbaugh’s comments. He wrote before Limbaugh issued his latest comments:

The Oil Spill Is Obama’s Fault

No, I haven’t lost my mind — that’s not what I believe. But you know that’s what the talk-show hosts will be saying soon, if they haven’t already started. The only question is what the story will be.

Will it be claims that liberals and/or scientific conspirators sabotaged the rig, to undermine good Americans who want to drillheredrillnow? (Michael Crichton already wrote that novel).

Will it be that oil workers, demoralized by the march of socialism, fell into despair and let the accident happen?

Will it be claims that since this didn’t happen under Bush, it obviously shows that Obamanomics is responsible?

I don’t know. But you know something along these lines is coming.

FOOTNOTE: Anyone who knows how talk radio operates could have predicted this as well — so we hereby withdraw the award.

Which is not to say that in coming days or weeks this crisis and how the federal government responded to it will not show that the federal government’s response wasn’t all that stellar or that Obama won’t face some political fallout because of the federal government’s performance.

But Limbaugh’s criticism at this time is typical talk radio political culture response.

And all conservatives should not be lumped in with Limbaugh’s (predictable) reaction (the only surprise with Limbaugh is that the highly talented broadcaster didn’t make the charge after on square inch of oil appeared on the surface). Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, in a post that needs to be read in full, writes:

“Obama’s Katrina”? So far, it’s not even Obama’s Exxon Valdez. The government has responded reasonably well, but it’s going to be up to the oil company to get this under control. Other than the eleven workers who died in the April 20th explosion, there has been no other loss of life, nor does it threaten to lay waste to entire urban populations. It’s important for conservatives to remember that the oil company has the responsibility of cleaning up its mess.

While off-shore drilling does entail risks, it’s also noteworthy that this has been the first major spill in decades, even in the Gulf, where drilling has continued while government declared the outer continental shelf off limits. That hasn’t stopped the hysterical reaction, however…..

….The US needs to investigate how this could have been prevented and implement any necessary changes. It doesn’t change the fact that we still need oil, and we’re much better off getting our own resources rather than inflating the profits of kleptocrats and radical regimes around the world by refusing to touch our own reserves. If Washington and the media manage to maintain some rational perspective on this, though, that would be most unexpected.

Meanwhile, more weblog reaction has started to pour in. Here’s a sampling:
--Crooks and Liars’ David Neiwert:

Remember how the crowds at the 2008 Republican National Convention all chanted “Drill Baby Drill,” led by the likes of Michael Steele, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and most of all by Sarah Palin?

…We sure eager to hear what the “Drill Baby Drill” crowd will say now. No doubt they’ll find a way to blame Obama for the mess.

UPDATE: Sure enough. Limbaugh: Oil spill is “Obama’s Katrina”. I understand this was the talking point this morning on “liberal” MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

--Newsbusters:

But what Krugman forgets to point out is that if this happened when Bush was President, the Left and their media minions INCLUDING ALL the New York Times writers, columnists, and editorial department would have ALREADY blamed it on the President.

So, SNARK AWAY, Mr. Krugman.

We learned under George W. Bush that ALL disasters are the President’s fault INCLUDING the natural ones like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and droughts.

As a post facto aside, conservative talk radio host Mark Levin pointed out Thursday that it took the Obama administration eight days to do anything about this oil spill.

Why aren’t media attacking Obama for this delay in much the same way they excoriated Bush for taking so long to respond to Katrina?

This seems to be a VERY important question given how the treatment of Bush by the press during and after that hurricane for all intents and purposes turned him into a lame duck only nine months into his second term effectively destroying his presidency.

Below the Beltway:

Meanwhile, as I expected, the spill has caused critics of offshore drilling to ask the Obama Administration to halt their recently announced plan to expand oil exploration and, for the time being at least, it does appear that is exactly what will happen….

Time:

But the damage won’t be confined to the sensitive Gulf coastline. Another casualty may be President Barack Obama’s energy plan, which called for expanded offshore oil and gas exploration along with carbon-emissions reductions and development of renewable energy. New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg have already come out against expanded offshore drilling, and on Thursday, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida announced legislation that would suspend new drilling pending a full investigation of the Gulf accident. “Drilling too close to the coast poses too great a threat to the economy and the environment of Florida and other states,” Nelson wrote in a letter to Obama.

Nelson may be right. The $2.4 billion Gulf fishing industry will likely be affected by the spill, and even the perception of damage can harm the lucrative recreational-boating and tourism industries of the Gulf Coast and Florida panhandle.

Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter:

The news media and public can only see current events through the prism of the past. So we’re all looking for a Katrina replay in the oil-spill story. David Axelrod was on Good Morning America tamping down any suggestion that the White House had been tardy in reacting.

But history doesn’t repeat itself exactly, so some new political storyline is sure to come out of this disaster (quite possibly the biggest non-Washington story of the year once the oil hits land and we see Exxon Valdez–style pictures of oil-soaked ducks).

What will that angle be? “Drill, baby, drill!”—the battle cry of the 2008 GOP convention—is already sounding lame, as is President Obama’s statement earlier this year that today’s oil rigs don’t cause spills. Is making politicians look like fools the only medium-term political outcome?

…So the question is whether the disaster might give new life to efforts to pass comprehensive energy legislation. Such a bill wouldn’t have prevented the gulf spill, but it would put us on a path toward moving away from fossil fuels over the next few decades. Lindsey Graham’s announcement that he wanted to shelve the energy bill because the Democrats had the temerity to raise immigration issues is looking a bit petty.

Obama now has an argument on both energy and immigration: these long-festering problems, exploding before our eyes, must be dealt with in a “comprehensive” fashion. This is the kind of serious argument that the president believes he was elected to make. The Arizona immigration bill and the coal-mine and oil-spill disasters are examples of what happens when we don’t move away from old ways of doing things that do nothing to solve long-term problems. Instead of fighting each other for attention in Washington, energy and immigration should be tied together under the banner “Let’s Get Comprehensive.” The time for local, uncoordinated responses to big problems is over.

Matt Yglesias:

The problem is that when spills do happen, it’s catastrophic. It’s never been accurate to say that hurricanes Katrina and Rita didn’t lead to drilling-related spills and now we’re seeing today once again that offshore drilling poses a clear and present danger to the surrounding ocean. If that were the only problem with drilling, it would probably be a problem worth living with, but given that there are many reasons to think we should be attempting to transition to a post-oil economy endangering the oceans to simply postpone adjustments that are needed anyway seems shortsighted.

Today, the White House says they need to put a hold on new drilling until we can investigate what happened, and White House environmental advisor Carol Browner seems to be indicating that the policy will be rethought.

The Washington Independent:

For the White House, the timing of the spill couldn’t have been worse. If Obama had stuck with his guns in opposing new drilling, he’d be seen as a prophet in the wake of this week’s Gulf disaster. Instead, by trying to make concessions to Republicans — most of whom won’t support a climate bill in any event — he’s simply alienated his conservation-minded supporters to no tangible benefit. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune makes the case.

“This disaster changes everything,” Brune said today in a statement. “We have hit rock-bottom in our fossil fuel addiction. This tragedy should be a wake up call. It’s time to take offshore drilling off the table for good.”

There’s also a good economic reason that offshore drilling isn’t the best way to secure the country’s energy independence. The Energy Department has determined “that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.”

And that was under the Bush White House

American Power:

Obama’s gonna get hammered by the radical left base of his party on this (netroots enviro-Nazis are already pissed off), and he’ll flip-flop on his drilling plan to mobilize the environmental vote. None of this changes the fact that we need to increase domestic supplies, but the Gull spill will be exploited out of pure political expediency. Soon we’ll see the spill used as a battering ram on Sarah Palin, to weaken the attractiveness of her robust embrace of increasing domestic supplies. More at USA Today, “Should oil spill end Obama’s offshore drilling plan?” And at ABC News, it’s happening already, “White House Says No New Offshore Drilling Until Investigation is Complete: Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Threatens to Jeopardize President Obama’s Offshore Drilling Policy.”

Daily Kos’ Jed Lewiston:

Even though BP is legally on the hook for paying these expenses, you’ve got to figure that at some point the administration will come under enormous pressure from BP lobbyists who will ask the public to foot the bill. There will be only one acceptable response: BP must pay the cost of cleaning up and recovering from its own mess. If it can’t afford the bill, well, then that’s why we have bankruptcy laws. That’s capitalism.

Rep. Charlie Melancon on the Huffington Post (needs to be read in full):

Friday, 11:31 AM: Got up early this morning to get up to speed on the latest from the oil spill disaster. Some reports are saying that the oil slick is already hitting the coast, which has everyone here very concerned.

Three cabinet-level administration officials–Secretaries Janet Napolitano, Ken Salazar, and Lisa Jackson–are in Louisiana today to meet with leaders of the response effort. I’ll be traveling with them and trying to underscore the importance of mustering every available resource to minimize the effects of this disaster on Louisiana’s environment and economy. People I’ve talked to are very worried that like Hurricane Katrina, this oil spill disaster may once again wipe out their livelihoods.

Friday, 11:31 AM: Got up early this morning to get up to speed on the latest from the oil spill disaster. Some reports are saying that the oil slick is already hitting the coast, which has everyone here very concerned.

Three cabinet-level administration officials–Secretaries Janet Napolitano, Ken Salazar, and Lisa Jackson–are in Louisiana today to meet with leaders of the response effort. I’ll be traveling with them and trying to underscore the importance of mustering every available resource to minimize the effects of this disaster on Louisiana’s environment and economy. People I’ve talked to are very worried that like Hurricane Katrina, this oil spill disaster may once again wipe out their livelihoods.

So the fear is that it could have some impact like Hurricane Katrina.

The reality is: it has not yet.

The copyrighted cartoon by Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News, is licensed to run on TMV. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.

Now you can follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter.

Submit a Comment