Obama misses another chance to reframe the debate
But even as we continue to hold BP accountable, we also need to hold Washington accountable….
If the laws on our books are inadequate to prevent such an oil spill, or if we didn’t enforce those laws – I want to know it. I want to know what worked and what didn’t work in our response to the disaster, and where oversight of the oil and gas industry broke down. We know, for example, that a cozy relationship between oil and gas companies and agencies that regulate them has long been a source of concern.
But he has taken a bold step to ensure that the country learns about all of the mistakes made this devastating environmental disaster, including those by his Administration.
Obama has named former two-term Florida governor (and former Senator) Bob Graham and Former EPA Administrator (under Pres. George H. W. Bush) William K. Reilly as co-chairs of his bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. These strike me as good choices. Reilly is the last of a dying breed — a Republican with genuine environmental street-cred.
Needless to say, his immediate predecessor never showed such curiosity about his myriad mistakes, such as the response to Katrina.
Daniel Weiss, CAP’s Director of Climate Strategy — who first proposed the commission idea on May 4 — say today the Commission is “essential to understanding the causes behind, and responsibility for, this human, economic and ecological tragedy…. The BP oil disaster is a stark reminder of the human, economic and ecological costs of our oil dependence. We will continue to work with the Obama Administration and Congress to adopt policies that permanently reduce our oil dependence, which will save families money and enhance our national security.”
I will be doing a couple of posts in the next few days on the issue of blame — blame for the disaster itself and for the response, though on the latter I’m mostly with 20-year veteran of the Coast Guard Dr. Robert Brulle: “With a spill of this magnitude and complexity, there is no such thing as an effective response.”
Here’s Obama’s full address:
Once again, the president skips the opportunity to reframe the energy debate (see “Is Obama blowing his best chance to shift the debate from the dirty, unsafe energy of the 19th century to the clean, safe energy of the 21st century?“).
The ultimate political must-read for insider’s, Mike Allen’s Playbook from Politico, said this morning:
Supporters of an energy bill think the Gulf gusher makes their ARGUMENT more compelling, but the SAUSAGE-MAKING more problematic (i.e., you needed more offshore drilling to make the vote math work in the Senate, and you obviously don’t have that anymore). So now these advocates are switching their focus from the Hill to the White House, and are urging President Obama to use the disaster as an argument for a bill that would give him the THIRD of his TOP THREE priorities before midterms. Here’s their case:
PIVOT POINT: Can the White House win the finger-pointing contest around the Gulf oil spill? To date, the White House strategy has had two key elements: Demonstrate competence (avoid Katrina), and hold BP responsible. With oil washing up on the Gulf shores and increasing questions about the size and magnitude of the disaster, some observers are wondering if it isn’t time for President Obama to seize control of a deteriorating narrative. One solution: Step up in a bigger way on his promise to deliver comprehensive energy legislation, by reframing the debate over the spill from “who’s at fault” to “how we fix this problem in the long run.” Moving in this direction would shift the conversation away from a situation over which they have no control, to a key administration priority and a legislative debate that they can shape and drive.
The buzz on the DC streets is that the pivot is coming in June. We’ll see.
- Video: Robert Redford tells President Obama it’s time to lead “America on a path to cleaner, safer energy”
- Obama’s campaign pollster: “In the aftermath of the oil spill disaster, voters overwhelmingly support a comprehensive clean energy bill”¦. Voters understand the dangers of our dependence on oil. Now, they’re ready to hold Congress accountable.”