Grade Obama’s performance on the BP oil disaster

Posted on  

"Grade Obama’s performance on the BP oil disaster"

So how is the president doing on

  1. Actually responding to the disaster,
  2. Appearing to respond to the disaster, and
  3. Messaging on the disaster?

Grade on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being the worst).  Feel free to provide a score on how hard this is going to hit his Presidency.  My scores below.

NYT columnist Frank Rich opines:

FOR Barack Obama’s knee-jerk foes, of course it was his Katrina. But for the rest of us, there’s the nagging fear that the largest oil spill in our history could yet prove worse if it drags on much longer. It might not only wreck the ecology of a region but capsize the principal mission of the Obama presidency….

The only good news from the oil spill is that when catastrophe strikes, even some hard-line conservatives, like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, start begging for the federal government to act, and act big. It’s the crunch moment for government to make its case “” as Obama belatedly started to do on Thursday. But words are no match for results. As long as the stain washes up on shore, the hole in BP’s pipe will serve the right as a gaping hole in the president’s argument for expanded government supervision of, for starters, Big Oil and big banks. It’s not just the gulf that could suffer for decades to come.

I have already weighed in on some of this.  But here goes:

1)  He gets a 7 on actual response.

2)  He gets at best a 5 on perceived response.

3)  He gets a 2 on messaging.

Note:  I am grading on a curve here, rather than some imaginary absolute scale.

Maureen Dowd has a silly column, which opens “President Spock’s behavior is illogical.”  Actually, Spock would be doing a better job on the response, but we’re not grading on that scale!  In any case, Spock couldn’t get elected president.

I don’t think Obama’s problem is lack of emotion or even an inability to express emotion.  I just think his whole team’s messaging is so dreadful it mucks up everything they try to do (see Is progressive messaging a “massive botch”? Part 2: Drew Westen on how “The White House has squandered the greatest opportunity to change both the country and the political landscape since Ronald Reagan”).

I think they have figured out almost in time that this is make or break for their administration — and you’ll see Cabinet Secretaries their round the clock now.  But the bottom line is this eco-disaster will hit Obama’s  presidency hard — and the only plausible way to save it is to pivot once and for all to a sustained effort to get us off of the dirty, unsafe fuels of the 19th century under the clean safe fuels of the 21st century that never run out (see “Will eco-disasters destroy Obama’s legacy?“).  Of course, BP or not BP, it was always the case that if he couldn’t do that, his presidency was not going to be a success.

What do you think?

« »

55 Responses to Grade Obama’s performance on the BP oil disaster

  1. David B. Benson says:

    Beyond President

  2. Brewster says:

    6 Actual
    4 Percieved
    3 Messaging

    I have some hope the messaging will inmprove. We’ll see.

  3. Oliver James says:

    I think Westen and also Lakoff have valuable contributions to make, and should roughly be followed whenever possible, but you overrate them. Neither has had any real experience on a campaign or governing. They don’t understand that compromises have to be made re: the “calendar” – other legislation, looming elections, the current economy, other external factors. They are academics. And you, Joe, were a single-policy issue person (enviro), not a cross-issue political guy. I love you, don’t get me wrong.

    I suspect that Obama and team also have their eye on the financial regulation ball, which is NOT over yet. You don’t want one to step on the other. However, that should be done soon. But it does significantly complicate matters.

    I give him three 7′s.

  4. Doug Bostrom says:

    Dowd’s anti-intellectual attitude is really tiresome. Speak in complete sentences equipped with facts and become “Spock.” Dowd, you graduated from junior high decades ago. Grow up.

    As for grading Obama, that’s mostly a distraction, welcomed by many I’m sure. I’ll grade him only on his use of this event as an object lesson, a teachable moment, where he’s currently reaching in the range of 6 to 8.

  5. Karen S. says:

    Battling Philistines

  6. evnow says:

    Actually responding to the disaster : 2
    Appearing to respond to the disaster : 1
    Messaging on the disaster : 0

    Obama should be handling all cleanup and leave oil industry to fix the well.

    He should explain that not just bP but every major company has experts in Houston now working on the problem – and yet can’t fix this quickly.

    Americans can’t believe it that there isn’t technology to quickly solve this problem. The same way Iraqis didn’t believe we can’t overnight reform their electrical power system. Afterall we sent people to the moon.

    So instead, Americans will blame this on someone – BP, Obama – whoever. Obama should be pounding all the time that deep ocean drilling is inherently unsafe and beyond oil industry’s technical capability to quickly fix problems. This is a major failure on the part of administration.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/weekinreview/30rosenthal.html

    “Americans have long had an unswerving belief that technology will save us — it is the cavalry coming over the hill, just as we are about to lose the battle. And yet, as Americans watched scientists struggle to plug the undersea well over the past month, it became apparent that our great belief in technology was perhaps misplaced.”

  7. lib says:

    It is more Obama’s Chernobyl than it is his Katrina.

  8. Stephen says:

    2 Actual
    2 Perceived
    0 Message

    Unfortunately for the marine and avian habitat in the Gulf, this is Beyond Politics, that is beyond being MERELY a political problem and thus the administration is clueless, much like their predecessor. They seem to see no mileage in embracing “environmental issues”. It is becoming increasingly clear that the claims of the species which depended on the now permanently degraded coastal ecosystems are completely lost on the urbanite political class which comprises the president’s administration. The president seems to have an ear, an instinct, for cultural things like “beaches” and “lost jobs”, but none whatsoever for the true (and now dying) inhabitants of this space, i.e. the panoply of living creatures that made their life here or depended on it as a migration stopover.

    The Gulf for years has been a cesspool of toxic agricultural runoff and the industrial detritus of the drilling regimes. Cheap food and cheap gas would appear to be two basic entitlements that Americans demand and it is clear that this president has no intention of challenging this status quo.

    I fought hard for Obama against Clinton, and then again in the general election. I won’t be fooled again. However, even though polls today are showing a sort of shift of sentiment away from drilling, none of this will stick to the president and, of course, the GOP cannot use any of this against the president without completely undercutting their own reflexive commitment to petro-dollars. Thus, as there is little true feeling for the environment among the mass of voters, I do not think this will factor into his re-election as all. I don’t know about where you live, but here, in Chicago, people are driving like never before.

    Thanks for your great site.

  9. PurpleOzone says:

    Actual response: 7 or 8
    Perceived response: Originally 2, now a 4 or 5
    Messaging: (sigh)

    Many people realize that the power of the federal government is this particular circumstance is limited. It has diverted the resources available, like measuring with satellites and airplanes, to this disaster, but it lacks the technology for deep water operations. Some people are just incoherently angry about the situation, for understandable reasons.

    The Obama administration is doing a lot more than they are taking credit for. I think Bush had terrific press relations — wish they’d had more strengths in other directions. Obama doesn’t need people “spinning” his work, telling the public is sufficient but also necessary. I don’t think their getting the word out enough.

  10. Bob G. says:

    Once this thing blew, there was little that Obama or anyone else could do to control it. I agree with Obama that his only significant mistake has been not requiring BP to release the video and other info more quickly. The new limitations on drilling have been appropriate.
    Actual Response: 7
    Although there was little to actually be done, it was apparent from the end of April that this disaster was massive and would have massive consequences. The administration should have made a bigger deal of throwing more resources at the problem. Their fear of being criticized for over-reacting has been their Achilles heel in terms of perception. Perceived Response: 5
    Their messaging has been inconsistent, and thus ineffective. Who was in charge? Who was responsible? Those questions could have been clearly answered and provided a clearer backdrop against which to address the larger questions of oil dependency. In the last week, we have seen the beginning of the pivot that environmentalists have been waiting for. I am glad to see the pivot, but I differ from many on this site who were calling for the pivot weeks ago. I think an early pivot would have looked like political opportunism, trying to take advantage of someone else’s on-going disaster for political gain. I think President Obama would have been more open to charges that he was not doing enough to stop the well if he had appeared to be focused on long-term political issues. Now that pretty much every idea in the book has been tried and failed, it is time to pivot, and I see Obama doing this. Messaging: 5
    I am hopeful that the pivot continues stronger in the weeks ahead. I see national polling moving in a direction that will create the political space for a strong pivot.

  11. mike roddy says:

    Joe, your 7-5-2 score looked about right to me until the press conference, when Obama was brilliant, instantly raising messaging to 5. He needs to do that more often, and I was shocked to learn it had been 10 months since the last one. Apparently he doesn’t like to get pinned down.

    I must be the only one here who liked O’Dowd’s column more than Rich’s, the opposite of how I usually feel about them. Aside from the detestable quote from that hillbilly Carville, she was right that Obama too often appears to be watching from the balcony. Even an idiot like Jindal has figured out that it’s OK to show passion and even obsession for a central event like this one. Throwing a bone to her ex nemesis Clinton was weird, though- we need the passion to come from the inside, not in the form of charm.

    Obama claimed at the press conference that the federal government has been managing the attempted stoppage the whole time, which may be true in principle. The trouble has been that Obama failed to execute this hierarchy in practice, by getting BP to release full flow rate camera footage, for example. Kudos for admitting this error, but Obama also should have moved more quickly and publicly to engage alternate solutions from outside the oil industry, which is not where our best people are located. Brilliant engineers don’t want to work for companies bent on destroying our atmosphere, and the task of stopping an oil volcano is a unique challenge anyway.

    This deference to BP is what really damaged his presidency, especially since they are clearly technically incompetent. Just because a company is big and wealthy does not mean that their technical and management team is of high quality, since anybody can make money in the oil business. If your first option is an oil company, better to have brought in a team from Chevron or even from Norway, where redundancy and installed relief wells are codified, and dangers and contingencies are accounted for.

    I certainly agree that this has to be a pivot to making a firm and real commitment to get off the horror that is dependence on oil and coal, a nightmare that is going to get a whole lot worse. Obama, by announcing increased offshore drilling in March, has been quiet largely due to the blowout making this a personal humiliation. He needs to renounce this error publicly as part of his speech to the people, and place the blame where it belongs: oil companies that chiseled on safety precautions and lied about blowout dangers, and the Bush Administration petroleum employees such as Dick Cheney who enabled it by appointing people who partied with cocaine and whores provided by the oil companies. Why aren’t both sides sitting in jail, by the way? Cheney faces indictment overseas, but we need to hold him to account ourselves.

    Obama can’t fulfill his dream of uniting the country anyway. Thirty percent of America, which is racist and ignorant, is going to hate him regardless. Go ahead and piss them off some more, and take a forceful stand for our future. With Chu and Holdren at your side, you have figured out what we need to do. As Truman said, trust the people, because the majority are less dumb than politicians believe. Reject advice from hacks like Axelrod and Emannuel who are telling you to not rock the boat for the midterms, and do it. Now.

  12. Jeffrey Davis says:

    I have no idea what Obama has actually done. Since the leak continues unabated, whatever it is obviously hasn’t been enough.

    As for his appearance, he appears to have approached it like a deferential lackey. Add that to our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, his reluctance to consider war crimes, his continuation of wire tapping, his hypocrisy on black site prisons and willingness to kill American citizens without trial — he’s definitely not been an appreciable break from the past.

  13. Raul says:

    Seems little is said about the court precedent for oil spills.
    It must be hard for the folks directly impacted but why take it out on everyone? — Is that what we are to believe? Only to search for the possible ways that we who are further away may be impacted? Seems that the courts take other things into account than the facts of the situation.
    Tooo baddd for everyone. Might as well admit it in the courts. For you
    know that there a great many impacted in multiple ways.
    Should the review of Presidential actions include what he is allowed to
    do legally or just what the impacted parties would like him to do?
    How do you think that we should feel knowing that there is a strong
    storm season in the forecast and rigs could rip through pipelines again?

  14. mark says:

    President Obama said:

    “Where I was wrong was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios,” the President said.”

    Mistake number one. – it’s pre blowout, but, it’s a horrendous mistake; It’s the one that encompasses all of the rest.

    He must be naive, and badly uninformed to have believe this.

    grade: zero.

    And all the other mistakes are housed within this irresponsible failure.

    so, grade for everything else: zero.

    And the fact that as is pointed out in other comments, that they are not in a position to do anything, is also, now, his responsibility.

    You can blame Bush for so long, then it gets very tired, and worn.

    And Stephen at no.8 said it as I wish I could:

    “It is becoming increasingly clear that the claims of the species which depended on the now permanently degraded coastal ecosystems are completely lost on the urbanite political class which comprises the president’s administration. The president seems to have an ear, an instinct, for cultural things like “beaches” and “lost jobs”, but none whatsoever for the true (and now dying) inhabitants of this space, i.e. the panoply of living creatures that made their life here or depended on it as a migration stopover.”

    As for the question

    Has he done enough?

    I ask, does anyone know what he’s done?

    Three zeros from me.

  15. Jeff Huggins says:

    Actual — 3

    Perceived — 2

    Messaging — 2

    And now I’ll take the liberty to mention a few things about the oil-industry-related folks that I’ve seen on TV over the last few days: They just don’t “get it”. The API spokeswoman doesn’t get it. The Managing Director of BP doesn’t get it. And the former head of Shell (who has been appearing on TV and has written a book recently) doesn’t get it, in a number of respects at least.

    These folks just don’t “get it”.

    And, while that’s a big problem in and of itself, it also underscores the problem with the way the President is dealing with things, because he doesn’t SHOW that HE “gets” that they DON’T get it. The fact that they (oil industry leaders) don’t “get it” indicates the immense changes necessary for all sorts of reasons: climate change, clean energy, energy independence, jobs, respect for the environment, and so forth.

    But Obama isn’t stepping up to that plate.

    Consider a stage play: Imagine two characters on the stage. One is supposed to be wise and the other is questionable. You are in the audience. If the “questionable” one says something, or does something, that shows that he “doesn’t get it”, i.e., that is foolish or harmful or unsound, then how does the other character react, and what does the other character do?

    If you are in the audience, it is by how that OTHER character reacts and responds to the foolish one that YOU tell whether HE (that other character) himself gets it. If the response to foolishness and harm is acceptance, or is a silly joke, or is hesitation, or so forth, then your conclusion is that the one character (who you originally thought was wise) perhaps isn’t so wise after all.

    And that’s the problem here.

    These folks in the oil industry don’t get it, plain and simple. Obama has to show that he understands that, and he has to take charge, not just via words, but via words and deeds and effectiveness and success. Period. If there is anything that the American people like, it’s effectiveness!

    I admire Obama in most respects, so it doesn’t feel good to give him a “2″ on this vitally important matter. But that’s what he is earning right now, in my view.

    How can I help?

    Jeff

  16. David B. Benson says:

    Blew it Pitifully

  17. socle says:

    Jeebus. Here’s a suggestion: Perhaps we USAians should learn to judge presidents by their *actual* performance rather than on appearances or “messaging”. FFS.

  18. Mark Shapiro says:

    Jeff asks: “How can I help?”

    Contact your reps and ask/beg/demand/plead for clean energy. Improve the clean energy bill and pass it. Ask them if they prefer dirty, risky energy, or clean, safe energy.

    Contact your local newscaster and ask if we can please discuss clean energy, since the oil companies and coal companies are killing us, polluting us, and risking our futures.

    The story is not Obama — it is clean, safe energy replacing dirty, risky energy.

  19. Bob Stour says:

    Obama took credit for successfully stoping the oil flow Friday and it was not done. He is flunking on this one and granting himself an A grade. He doesn’t know what he is doing. He is surrounded with clueless folks pertaining to oil industry technology. He was slow and lazy from the beginning. His minnions are still interfering with cleanup.

  20. Bob Wallace says:

    Well, I’m biased.

    That’s because I actually took a few minutes to read up on what the federal government has done to date. And based on facts in hand, I’ll give President Obama a 9 on “Actual”.

    If you’d like to read what has been done…

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/05/05/ongoing-administration-wide-response-deepwater-bp-oil-spill

    As for “Perceived” I’m going to go with a 3.

    That’s because I read the comments above and realized that even on this “well above average” forum most people are fairly clueless about the facts.

    And “Messaging” I’m also rating pretty low with a 2.

    A good part of the public ignorance has to be laid at the feet of the administration. Obama and his people need to figure out how work the media and get their message out.

    It’s really disappointing that the president needs to take time away from working on problems like climate change, immigration, and the Koreas and go out on the beach to create sound bites. But that’s the type of world in which we live.

    President Obama! People want more Drama!!!

  21. Jeff Huggins says:

    Getting Real: The Foolishness of Counting On Geo-engineering to Get Us Out Of the Climate Change Problem

    Consider:

    * We (companies, government, etc.) can’t even figure out a way to stop oil from flowing from a hole, one mile deep, at one place in the ocean, from a pipe whose diameter you could hide behind your body, flowing at between a few thousand and twenty thousand barrels per day.

    * We’ve seen how the eruption of one volcano can shut down air travel in Europe and over the Atlantic.

    * We’ve seen how earthquakes can devastate entire islands and cities.

    * We’ve seen that we can’t even manage to rebuild the World Trade Center within a three or four or five or six or seven or eight or nine-year period.

    * We’ve seen that we can’t even agree to remedy the major problems in our health care system in the U.S.

    * We’ve seen that we can’t even agree on sensible immigration policies that provide a healthy balance incorporating all considerations.

    Here is what this says to me:

    If we are thinking that we can, or should, rely on geoengineering approaches to address climate change, or even to mitigate climate change, forget it. Period. The hubris and folly involved in such an assumption are astonishing.

    The way to address climate change is to stop doing the things that cause it. Period. See the parallel? The way to avoid messing up the Gulf of Mexico would have been to NOT drill the well in the first place. We humans are incredibly incompetent and indecisive and fragmented and ineffective when it comes to trying to clean up immense messes once we’ve caused them. The lesson: We mustn’t, and shouldn’t, cause them in the first place.

    Let’s get real. Who is planning the next geoengineering conference? Who is planning to write the next article on geoengineering? Can those people explain how they think that humankind can geoengineer our way out of things when we can’t even plug a modest-sized hole in the bottom of the ocean?

    Sigh,

    Jeff

  22. catman306 says:

    Philippe Cousteau interviewed by Bill Maher

    http://videos.mediaite.com/video/Bill-Maher-Interviews-Philippe

    Obama was lied to by BP about the volume of oil that was gushing. He didn’t know then that he shouldn’t be believing anything that BP says. So the initial response was too low because BP lied.

    7 response
    5 perception of response
    4 messaging

  23. Leif says:

    Great one Jeff.

    I sure hope Obama has someone monitoring this site today, and every day for that mater.

  24. Chris Yonge says:

    Donning my tinfoil hat for a minute, one element I haven’t seen discussed is that the longer this leak continues the less effective Obama looks. Thus the oil industry’s political aims are being furthered the more damage is done. It may well be that BP considers a string of public failures, jerking the administration’s chain for a couple of months – and the political damage it sustains as a result – is worth those months’ profits in compensation and fines. As far as the poll goes:

    1. Actually responding to the disaster – 4
    2. Appearing to respond to the disaster – 2
    3. Messaging on the disaster – 4

    I really thought Obama was better than this; BP is already subtly influencing my opinion.

  25. John Mashey says:

    I am sorry to say I think this is not very useful.

    It *is* possible to run organizations in ways such that:
    a) Excellent reliability is maintained, even in the face of doing risky, difficult, technically-challenging things.
    b) When the (inevitable) disasters do occur, the people who need to be are well-trained, have the resources they need, and perform well.
    c) The incentives and behaviors permeate a large organization, from top to bottom. The bottom is crucial.

    For example, despite the famous disasters, the manned space program has been really pretty good at this.

    The old Bell System was awfully good at it (most people outside had no idea of the design, training, and facilities emplaced to provide reliable service, or the contingency planning it took to quickly deal with the massive 1975 switching center fire in NYC, drawing on resources from all over the US).

    US nuclear submarines have done well … at least in part because Rickover was a fanatic for perfection. In fact, the US armed forces are relatively good about this, and some states are a lot better than others in planning for disasters. [For example, CA is probably better than LA, because we're used to dealing with forest fires and earthquakes, and at least some people get a lot of practice.]

    BUT, if we’ve had years of pervasive misincentives of particular sort, not even a President can wave a magic wand and make them go away over night. The specific problem is one we’ve now seen in:
    1) Financial markets
    2) The BP oil problem

    That is, one finds a bunch of incentives where many people in an organization either cut corners to increase profits (BP), or think they are making easy money month to month, while actually taking ion unknowable risk (financial markets with CDSs. (read Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short”, for example.)

    We had (at least) 8 years of *strong encouragement* for that style, and at least some in teh years before.

    If somebody wants to whack Obama for doing a bad job, hopefully they can point to 8 years of their own posts or articles describing risk practices in the oil business and demanding much more money go into building large Federal organizations, facilities and equipment to take care of that problem.

    Personally, I think polls over past performance are silly, almost as silly as “nationalize BP!”. BP wasn’t prepared for this, and the US Govt has not built up the relevant resources over the last 10-20 years.
    If somebody is having brain surgery, and the surgeons are having trouble, you might ask the hospital administration to take over and put in heart surgeons instead to DO SOMETHING … but that’s probably not a useful idea.

    Far better than saying DO SOMETHING, or playing Monday-morning quarterback is to get serious about *fixing* the problem.

    We have a lot of off-shore oil wells. They aren’t going away.
    What kinds of regulations do we need?
    What’s the mix of government and industry?
    How about insurance companies? They actually are in the business of pricing risk.

    How do we incent *every* relevant person in an organization to be thinking about reliability? [In practice, in a profit-driven turf, if your quarterly results are improved by taking more risk, especially if the downsides will happen after you've already gotten your bonus ... Bad Things will happen. Compensation schemes have to work right, at all levels. They have to get people to think longer-term. In the Bell System, we had specific bonus plans to keep managers from boosting short-term results by underspending on preventative maintenance.]

    If one depends on government regulation/inspection, the organizational design has to be done right. {Regulatory agencies always have to fight being “captured” by the industries they regulate, especially true for extractive industries.]

    I hope thoughtful people are starting to think about redesigns to help fix the general problem … not just the immediate mess.

  26. Chris Winter says:

    With the proviso that I don’t know everything “No-drama Obama” has done about the Gulf Gusher, I score him 7-4-5. BP before the blowout was probably under his radar. It shouldn’t have been, but Salazar likely seemed to be on top of it. Presidents can fail, or be perceived as failing, by micromanaging things too. Does anyone remember the SNL skit about Carter and the Marvex 3400?

    But let’s think about the other oil companies. Some of them are competitors to BP, right? Then the fact that none of them came forward offering to shut down the gusher is a pretty good indication that they don’t have the technology to handle it either.

    I still wonder about the military’s resources in this area. Googling shows a number of Navy submersibles with manipulators that can go deep enough, only not in enough detail to tell if they would have helped this problem.

  27. Lauren says:

    Obama was elected by people who thought he would fix the agencies that oversaw our offshore drilling activities. These same people thought he would slow down the rush to add more offshore oil wells. Had Obama listened to his base, this disaster would not have happened, we would be out of Iraq and Afghanistan by now, health-care, cap-trade, financial regulation, and energy reform would have been enacted in the first six-twelve months of his admin.

  28. Chris Winter says:

    Lib wrote: “It is more Obama’s Chernobyl than it is his Katrina.”

    It’s definitely not his Katrina. I don’t think it’s his Chernobyl either. If that comparison held, the government would have denied there was any oil problem in the Gulf for the first two weeks or so.

    Maybe there is no good historical event to compare it to. But in searching for such, we ought to look at Ixtoc 1 first of all.

  29. mark says:

    Bob Wallace was impressed by the efforts.Thanks, I had a look. I found this:

    “Oversight Continues of BP’s Containment Efforts”

    “Gas and oil production from the Gulf of Mexico remains near normal with few adverse impacts to other operators from the oil spill.”

  30. Just wonderin' says:

    The headline from the Times of London says it all –

    “Americans want a superman to turn back the black tide of oil”

    Systematic dismantling of government infrastructure – has brought this on – no enforced regulation to prevent it and no expertise or infrastructure able to respond.

    The people who cry for end of big government and empower the likes of big corporations such as BP are now first in line begging for help.(Bobby Jindal et al)

    The system you have is the system is the one you brought on yourself.

    Could Obama have done better? – Absolutely. But I don’t think he is the problem here.

  31. Chris Winter says:

    Thanks, Bob Wallace, for pointing to the White House page. I’d been remiss in not looking at that earlier. Based on what I saw, I’ll bump my score for actual performance up one notch, to 8. Others remain the same.

    The timeline seems to be about five days behind. But the main fault is that the administration did not push harder on BP to allow independent monitoring of the wellhead. Maybe they figured knowing the flow rate was something they could worry about later. I disagree.

    There’s a great deal about BP’s actions during this time that merit scrutiny. Of course, there’s that Presidential Commission going to look into things. But I hear the Commission has no subpoena powers.

  32. Ben Lieberman says:

    I think Joes is right on with the grading–the 2 and 3s for actual response are silly–is he supposed to go down a mile in a sub and close the blowout himself? That said, I agree with the messaging grade.

  33. Raul says:

    Guess Bush still thinks the way to solve it is to
    do like he did for other countries? You know aggression
    and take overs.
    Glad he isn’t President.
    Bet the stock market on puts and calls is busy.
    Heard of the fortunes made recently on betting
    against BP.
    If it could be said that it was the President’s
    fault that the fortunes were made that way it
    could really be an inane argument.

  34. Just wonderin' says:

    From the National Post –

    “But there’s a disturbing commonality to both catastrophes which is the abdication in the United States in the past under the Bush administration of government regulation and oversight. This was the result, over eight years, of a toxic mixture of crony capitalism, incest between business and regulators and old-fashioned hatred toward government of any kind, except for, that is, the Pentagon.

    Anyone in the oil business, particularly a North Sea oil driller like BP and its suppliers, has adhered to tough regulations underwater that include remote-shut-off switches and relief wells.

    Former vice-president Dick Cheney, ex-CEO of BP supplier Halliburton, excluded these requirements, according to Time magazine. Had he not done that, the disaster would never have happened.

    Obama’s Katrina? No way.

    “It’s Bush’s second Katrina,” pointed out Time’s Joe Klein this week.”

    Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/columnists/story.html?id=1415fc42-9b5a-40bb-8588-f1e77f3d6a54#ixzz0pSiwlUpt

  35. Bob Wallace says:

    Let me throw a couple of things into the mix.

    First, the initial permit. By law drilling permits must be completed within 30 days (I understand).

    BP submitted the permit for this well approximately a month after Obama and Salazar arrived at their desks in January, 2009. The MMS (the agency who issued the permit) was not selected until months after the permit was issued.

    Second, this is not the first well blowout. Just the first, as far as I know, that occurred at this depth. Other blowouts have been stopped with the technology which BP has been using on this one.

    (Is the problem depth or extreme pressure coming out of this reservoir, I know not.)

    Someone, sometime made a mistake when they used standards for shallower water wells for deep water wells. That person, those people, were leftovers from the previous administration. Salazar would not have been involved at this detailed level inside Interior. Birnbaum wasn’t even there.

    Now Obama is getting pretty much 100% of the blame, just as he’s getting most of the blame for the high unemployment that we are experiencing. That’s how the game is often played.

    The results?

    Could be that come January next year we will have a Republican-controlled Senate which will likely mean an end to new climate control legislation.

    And it could mean that we’ll have a Republican president in 2012.

    How about a 1 to 10 rating for the likelihood that the Republicans will get greenhouse gases under control?

    I’ll open with a solid 1….

  36. coral says:

    Actual – 3
    Perceived – 1
    Messaging – 0

    Bush II, would have been Actual – 0, Perceived – 6, Messaging – 8

  37. Bill Woods says:

    #12 Jeffrey Davis says: “I have no idea what Obama has actually done. Since the leak continues unabated, whatever it is obviously hasn’t been enough.

    You seem to be assuming there’s something he could have done to stop the leak.

    As for his appearance, he appears to have approached it like a deferential lackey.

    So what else is new? C.f. the stimulus bill, health care reform, the global warming bill(s), etc. Obama stood ready to sign whatever Congress passed. So much for the ‘green FDR’.

  38. Chris Dudley says:

    I’d give him high marks in all categories. In reacting to the spill he’s been effective and perception problems are really coming from his enemies and will crumble with time. As Joe pointed out, when people say “Obama’s Katrina,” they are admitting something about the response to Katrina rather than portraying the current response.

    Heads have started to rolled at MMS, there are a lot of government people and equipment deployed to the containment effort and BP is being dogged. And while President Obama’s message is wrong, he is effective at delivering it. So sevens or eights with FDR being the (modern) ten standard.

    Where the grade has to be very low is in encouraging more drilling and thus encouraging a permissive atmosphere that contributed to the accident happening. He is still stuck there. He’ll end up with a major nuclear accident as well the way he is allowing the NRC to run. It is sometimes called command influence. The wink and the nod from the President shift people off of promoting safety and onto promoting an industry. We’re having major accidents because the atmosphere is permissive. Discipline is lax at the MSHA with inspectors not completing training. There has even been a uranium mining death. It seems crazy but it has happened. The MMS never got cleaned up. Getting good grades for responding well to a situation that is of your making is small consolation I thing.

  39. Leif says:

    Chris, check out my latest thoughts on the well control. Your re-bar idea is a dandy.

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/05/29/breaking-top-kill-fails-to-stop-bp-oil-disaster/

  40. Gary says:

    “If there is anything that the American people like, it’s” DISTRACTION!
    This BP disaster is not his fault.

  41. paulm says:

    The real poll is …

    So how are the Americans doing on…
    1 Realizing the real reason for the disaster
    2 Accepting the reality of this
    2 Reacting positively to this

  42. Auntie Sycophant says:

    Actual – 0
    Perceived – 2   (only because Obama can do no wrong in some eyes)
    Messaging – 3   (a few good sound bytes)

    Spine – 0

    Once again, there is a huge gulf between the candidate’s campaign imagery and the reality of his capitalist rule.  This poster sums it up for me.

  43. Welcome to the future, because it began with the BP disaster. It is a future of consequences, of dreadful crises with no easy solutions and maybe no solutions at all, of media and Internet panic feeding on itself, people feeling pain needing someone to blame, with unrealistic expectations and the propensity to destroy the best they can ever expect to get.

    I too feel frustrated, and mourn for opportunities maybe slipping away. But I look inward as well at my reactions and actions. I see how easy self-righteousness is, when I don’t hold the levers of power, and I am not responsible for the stability and well-being of an entire nation, and in many respects the world.

    I too would have liked to see the President visibly taking charge and communicating sooner, but in order for that to happen, the media has to be paying attention. I look also to the media, not reporting the information that you have to go to the White House site to get, picking out a soundbite from the President’s press conference and criticizing it instead of conveying its content, and giving over the airwaves to airheads and anybody with a gripe.

    If this were the early months of World War II when the U.S. was losing battle after battle, ungunned and outmanned in the Pacific, I suppose the Internet would be calling for impeachment. This is the time to get behind our President, who never claimed to be perfect, but who is the best we’re ever likely to get. Won’t get fooled again? Who fooled you? How many times did Obama say change wouldn’t be easy and wouldn’t be quick? This is not his crisis. This is our crisis. Let’s grow up, and do what can be done.

  44. Leland Palmer says:

    Actual 7
    Perceived 5
    Messaging 7

    He’s doing what he can, IMO. His administration did let BP get away with underestimating the scope of the disaster, and BP’s use of dispersants is highly questionable, but it’s a solid response, to a disaster not of his making.

    As with all else, the conservative MSM is out to spin the story to be about the Obama administration, when it should probably be about capitalist cost cutting and economically motivated sabotage of sound safety practices. The story should also be about elite and corporate ownership of the Republican party, and how the intransigence of the Bush administration got us to this point.

    He’s doing a pretty good job, it’s just that the well isn’t cooperating, with anyone, and his “bully pulpit” doesn’t do much good against a mile of seawater and thousands of pounds per square inch of reservoir pressure.

  45. Philip says:

    Recipe for Disaster

    1. Corporate law that insists on maximizing shareholder value regardless of environmental and social consequences.
    2. The breakdown of oversight and regulation.

    I don’t think Obama can be blamed for the BP disaster or for the failure to end it. But his declared trust in the oil industry was ill-placed, and he can be blamed for whitewashing the record of the previous administration by “moving on” and not holding it accountable for its
    mistakes. This makes it more difficult for him to claim that the problems he faces are problems that he inherited. Maybe he believed that avoiding confrontation would facilitate his dream of bipartisanship. If so he was mistaken.

  46. Tom S. says:

    7
    3
    3

    I think Obama’s heart and mind are in the right place. He’s a smart, caring person who knows what to do. That said, I think he’s too cautious and calculating in a lot of his decisions and relies on advisors that don’t always make the best choices.

    Energy / environmental legislation should’ve been his first battle, not health care. Getting an enviro-energy bill passed likely would’ve been easier, quicker and more bi-partisan. Now, whatever he does, the chances for bi-partisanship are almost nil, and he shouldn’t even worry about it too much. Just do what he KNOWS the country needs.

    If he follows his smarts and his heart on the BP spill and everything else, I think he’ll find he’s got a bigger following than the polls show. Sincerity is crucial in today’s political climate.

  47. Stephanie M. says:

    1.Actually responding to the disaster – 7
    2.Appearing to respond to the disaster – 6
    3.Messaging on the disaster – 5

    I think that the President was lulled into the false sense of security, like everyone else was, that BP and the oil industry as a whole had an actual plan to deal with a disaster like this. It’s hard to fathom that there was no game plan from the beginning as to how to handle a worse-case scenerio. Dollars and cents and not common sense was the regulation and everything that the enviromentalists and those that wanted more regulation feared has come true. We got what we deserved.

    I just hope that the President has a lot going on behind the scenes that will finally get this thing shutdown. I have faith that he isn’t just sitting on the sidelines watching helplessly.

  48. john atcheson says:

    This whole “government isn’t reacting” meme is making me crazy. As Admiral Mullen — head of the joint chiefs pointed out, the US has neither the technology nor the know-how to plug the leak. And it shouldn’t.

    There was a massive government failure — but it occurred over the past several decades. To wit: the deregulation of corporations in general, and the acquiescence to a small government incapable of effectively regulating.

    The only message Obama should send is we are reaping the harvest of conservatism, and we must roll back this pernicious political philosophy before it destroys us.

    To use a much overused line Obama should have a sign above his desk that says: “It’s the conservatism, stupid.”

  49. Doug Bostrom says:

    Kids handing out low grades here prepared to stop using gasoline?

    Wait, I could be more fair. Could those handing out low grades and who -don’t- drive or use significant quantities of petrochemicals please stand forward?

    Others, you get the same grade you’re assigning.

  50. Mike #22 says:

    The cause of this disaster was primarily BP’s corporate culture and weak government regulation leading to human error. The deepwater drilling moratorium is just the start of the full safety review that needs to take place. Good start here.

    There are stunning analogies between this fossil fuel disaster today, and the much larger fossil fuel disasters that loom from global warming. The precautionary rule was broken and Obama has this window to lead America by explaining what went wrong. But consider the pitfalls waiting. The MSM is perfectly capable of hanging BP’s and MMS’s failures around Obama’s neck–the Right Wing Media considers it an obligation. Obama’s exposure to this grows if he is perceived as not engaged (Bush II and Katrina) and his exposure grows if he takes direct command and meets failure (Carter and hostages).

    Obama can frame this event to his advantage or he can be framed by it (applies to Dems and Independents–Republicans have probably already rationalized this as a Democratic failure). I think the Whitehouse is holding back on strong framing until more cards are face up on the table. This oil flow could get much worse when they cut the riser pipe–or maybe they cap it very soon, the undersea oil plumes go off into the depths and biodegrade quitely, a hurricane comes in and scrubs out the marshes and beaches, and the shrimp test negative for crude.

    I give him an “incomplete” in all three categories, and hope for the best.

  51. mark says:

    I forgot this:

    why has there been no criminal investigation?

    I heard yesterday, someone from Mr. Holder’s office showed up. 45 days after the deaths of 11 men, and who knows what to others on the platform.

    If a person driving a car kills another person, police are there in minutes, to investigate, whether or not a crime was committed.

    If a person operating an oil well kills 11, the investigation is much less urgent.

    and I suppose, no law enforcement presence at the scene of what may well have been a crime.

    another zero.

    I will be very surprised if any person serves any time for any part of this.

  52. Cory D says:

    I can’t believe some of the dunderheads on this. How can anyone blame Obama for this when BP was repeatedly breaking the law during the Bush administration (used small A on purpose)? Why didn’t the previous administration lower the boom on BP? Oh I forgaot…he was republican and made sure that all the conservatives know he believes in God and I guess that is OK. Chowderheads…

    It is a disaster the BP an other oil companies are better equipped to handle, and our insatiable appetite for oil?

    I guess it is easier for republicans and conservatives to blame a Liberal President seeing he runs the country than a corporation that has a poor track record.

    Name one country that can contain this problem? I can’t think of any…

    The only thing the Obama is guilty of is that it happened on his watch. That well was a ticking timebomb and it waited until he was in office. Nothing more.

    As to why isn’t there an investigation, most likely it is but because it is a corporation, and not an individual (yet), they need to make sure that they go through the right actions of the BP lawyers will make this a stall tactic and it will drag on for years. Line up the duck first, then pick them off.

  53. Cory D says:

    One more thing…You can only respond to information that is given to you. After the last couple of times, Obama will most likely get this right.

    Run BP outta here.

  54. Raul says:

    Thinking back to when I visited Clearwater Fla. as a kid, I would
    dream of floating down the coast in my rubber raft staying at nice
    places all along the way and deep sea snorkeling off the coast of
    Key West. There is a really nice hotel in Key West that still ads.
    that the shores have pure white sands. Imagine that.