Obama stand on oil spill is tough and temperate

Obama stand on oil spill is tough and temperate

Sunday, June 13, 2010

••• U.S. President Barack Obama has been forced to adapt his agenda to the endless challenge of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which threatens to sully him politically as experts struggle round-the-clock to find a fix.

Obama on Monday and Tuesday will make his fourth visit to U.S. states facing the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.

On his return to Washington, Obama on Wednesday will meet with British Petroleum chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up and sank April 20-22 killing 11 workers and triggering a massive oil gusher.

Obama has spared BP no criticism on how it is handling the oil spill, to the detriment of the special U.S.-British relationship.

On Saturday, however, he reassured British Prime Minister David Cameron that all was well between their two nations.

In a call to Cameron, Obama said his criticism of BP was not aimed at Britain and that ‘frustrations about the oil spill had nothing to do with national identity,’ a spokesman for the prime minister’s Downing Street office said.
As the bad news from the oil spill keeps coming the estimated daily oil leak recently doubled up to 40,000 barrels, the Obama administration’s ‘hands are to some degree tied’, said Fordham University’s political science department chairman Jeffrey Cohen.

‘Nobody seems to have a good idea about how to stop this leak, and now we’re waiting months before a relief well’ reaches the broken pipe to divert the oil to surface ships and plug up the leak with cement – expected at the earliest in August, Cohen said.

‘This is a long time for this kind of issue to persist,’ he added.

More than 50 days into the crisis, Obama is stung by criticism as he appears powerless to stop the gusher 1 mile below the sea.

The spill is lapping the shores of four states with long-term economic and environmental damage.

‘As best as I can tell, the federal government response has been timely and competent,’ but this is a problem it cannot resolve, said Brookings Institution think tank analyst Thomas Mann.

‘But the media and political (Republican) opposition demand more personal engagement by the president, even if it is purely symbolic,’ he added.

During his first two visits to the oil-stricken region, Obama met with local and response effort officials, but not with fishermen and business people whose livelihoods are directly threatened by the environmental catastrophe.

Intellectually, Obama has no problem grasping the situation, ‘but in terms of really feeling people’s issues, he doesn’t seem to do a very good job of that’, Cohen argued.

That all changed during his third trip to Louisiana on June 4, when Obama spoke at length with local people hard hit by the crisis. More of that is expected during his upcoming two-day trip.

In terms of his relation with BP and its response effort, however, Obama is having a tough time in keeping just the right distance, Cohen said.

‘People will attack him for not showing much concern, but if he associates himself too closely with what’s going on, he begins to take some of the blame for the screw-ups.’
During the call it was also agreed that Mr Cameron will visit the U.S. for the first time as Prime Minister on July 20, 2010.
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• Source(s): The White House & 10 Downing Street


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