Conservatives continue to hound the President for his handling of the BP oil spill, but there continues to be no “there” there. The basic question one has to ask these critics is, what more would you have him do? What is he not doing that you think he should?
True, communication and transparency were lacking for weeks. But the only other substantive, policy-based answer critics tend to give is that the President should have waived the Jones Act and accepted the assistance of European ships, but didn’t because of his ties to labor unions. The truth, however, is that the federal government HAS accepted some foreign aid and it HAS given legitimate reasons why other aide was refused. The same cannot be said of the Gulf State governors who, despite their criticisms of the President, are not using all of the resources at their own disposal.
Prospective 2012 (though I’d wager 2016) presidential candidate Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) said, “It's clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here,” and Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) Tweeted, “State Department reports today 17 countries have offered 21 times to send aid, including skimmers. Why has the White House refused help?” I’ll get to the hypocrisy of Jindal’s criticisms, as well as those from other Gulf State governors, in a moment. First, however, here’s why Politifact rated LeMieux’s quote “barely true,” which seems to be a rather generous rating:
The State Department on June 14 released a list of [17 countries] that offered to help… The State Department also detailed what offers had been accepted.
From Mexico -- Two skimmers and 13,780 feet of boom (accepted in early May).
From Norway -- Eight skimming systems (accepted in early May).
From Netherlands -- Three sets of Koseq Rigid Sweeping Arms, which attach to the sides of ships and gather oil (accepted on May 23).
From Canada -- 9,843 feet of boom (accepted on June 4).
On June 15, Qatar, the 18th country, offered chains of containment boom and Sweden followed up on an earlier offer to provide skimmers. State Department officials also started making a distinction about the aid -- it wasn't coming for free…
The Washington Post reported about the decision to accept or decline foreign aid in its June 15 edition, noting that the decision to accept foreign aid came after weeks of delay, and that foreign governments were unsure if they should contact the government or BP. In some cases, the Post reported, the administration rejected offers because they failed to meet U.S. specifications: For example, the private consortium that serves as Norway's spill-response team uses a chemical dispersant that the Environmental Protection Agency has not approved.
In other words, Jindal, LeMieux, and right-wing bloggers are claiming that Obama refused aide and won’t tell us why despite the facts that a) he was unable to accept many of those offers because they were made to BP, not to him; b) the Coast Guard and State Department have indeed accepted some aide and c) legitimate explanations were provided for the aide that was refused.
On a similar note, if right-wing blogs and Senators are going to criticize the President because the federal government hasn’t blindly accepted all that was offered to it, they should do the same for the four affected governors, all Republicans. With the feds it’s skimmers and booms to stop the leak; with the governors it’s National Guardsmen to clean up the spill. From CBS News on Thursday:
All along the Gulf coast, local officials have been demanding more help from the federal government to fight the spill, yet the Gulf states have deployed just a fraction of the National Guard troops the Pentagon has made available, CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.
That's a particular problem for the state of Louisiana, where the Republican governor has been the most vocal about using all resources.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's message has been loud and clear, using language such as "We will only be winning this war when we're actually deploying every resource," "They (the federal government) can provide more resources" and "It's clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here."…
But CBS News has learned that in addition to Louisiana's 1,053 troops of 6,000, Alabama has deployed 432 troops of 3,000 available. Even fewer have been deployed in Florida - 97 troops out of 2,500 - and Mississippi - 58 troops out of 6,000…
The Coast Guard says every request to use the National Guard has been approved, usually within a day. Now Jindal's office acknowledged to CBS News the governor has not specifically asked for more Guard troops to be deployed.
At the end of the day, it would seem that policy-wise Obama is doing just about all he can to stop the leak, and that he’s certainly no more behind the curve than are the local Republican officials. Yes, he could have demanded more transparency from BP earlier; yes, he could have better communicated what his Cabinet was doing earlier than he did; and yes, perhaps he could have subjected himself to more deficit criticisms by renting or purchasing more foreign aid. But none of that would have actually stopped the leak or even slowed its rate. Maybe his leadership style needs some tweaking, but from a policy perspective, he’s doing just about all he can.
Thankfully, voters seem to get it. Only one new poll – NBC/WSJ – shows the spill affecting his approval rating, while most others show him holding steady right around 48.