I am open to alternative explanations, but this story from Jake Tapper about Admiral Allen and the White House not knowing about the manufacturer in Maine who could manufacture 3 million feet of absorbent boom a month is a consequence of an almost total lack of private sector experience in Obama’s cabinet.
TAPPER: I talked to a guy who runs a company in Maine that offers boom, and he has – he says – the ability to make 90,000 feet of boom a day. High quality. BP came there 2 weeks ago, looked at it, they are doing another audit today. He is very frustrated, he says he has a lot of high quality boom to go and it is taking a long time for BP to get its act together. Don’t you need this boom right now?
ALLEN: Oh we need all the boom wherever we can get it. If you give me the information off camera I’ll be glad to follow up.
TAPPER: Florida emergency officials were upset a couple nights ago because oil was hitting Florida and parts of the ocean there were shut off and nobody had told emergency officials in Florida — what happened?
ALLEN: Well, I think we need to understand that we’ve got oil potentially spreading from South Central Louisiana to the Panhandle of Florida. And what used to be very large quantities of oil that came to the surface have now been disaggregated sometimes in very small quantities. And not all of them are going to be surveilled, and there will be oil coming ashore. Our attempt is to skim as much of that offshore as possible, but I’m not going to tell anybody in this country there’s not going to be some oil come ashore from time to time.
Morrissey asks the right question; aren’t these guys supposed to know stuff like this? It was all over the internet a week ago but beyond that, if they’re short of boom – and they say that’s one of the problems – isn’t someone responsible for compiling a list of businesses that make the stuff? Shouldn’t they be calling every single one of them asking them for every foot of boom they can get?
Either this is the greatest environmental disaster in history or its not. If it is, it appears to me that the White House is missing the boat. I don’t believe it’s because they are necessarily “incompetent” whatever that means. With only 3 cabinet heads who have any private sector experience – the fewest in modern history – I believe it likely that the idea that the private sector could help them if only they could bring themselvesto think out side the box just never crossed their minds.
And I wouldn’t be the first to point out that Allen seems a bit deferential to BP. The point being, while I’m sure there is major disagreement among experts about the extent of the problem and what to do about it, do others get the same impression that I do – that what is really lacking in this operation is a decisiveness, a firm hand? I’m not talking about technical means to close the hole but the ways and means of mitigating the effect of the spill. This thing with the booms is exhibit A of what I’m talking about. If you were responsible for protecting the coast and was short of boom, wouldn’t the first thing you would do is hit the internet and google up companies that make the stuff?
Sure, I’m probably oversimplifying, and we can never know all that is going on behind the scenes. But this story is worrying on several different levels, including the lack of communication with state officials in Florida. I’ve been watching government for a long time and I can tell you that it just seems to me that too many things are falling through the cracks, or not getting done, or the team is behind the curve. This bespeaks a lack of decisiveness. When it happens in war, as it did during the Bush years, young men die. When it happens in a disaster of this proportion, the Gulf coast may never be the same in my lifetime.