Obama blamed for BP blunders

 
From the Desk of Alex Binkley, Contributing Editor
 
BP responsible for Deepwater Horizon disaster
but Obama being burdened with the blame
 
By Bob Weinstein
Editor-in-Chief
Troy Media

 
Bob Weinstein  
26 September 2010, NEW YORK The jury was out too long on the BP oil spill of April 20, 2010. Five months after the horrific event, which killed 11 workers and injured 17, the truth finally surfaced.
 
For several weeks following the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, confusion and fear blanketed the Gulf Coast for some 300 to 400 miles. Dozens of businesses were permanently shut down, and hundreds more are still struggling to recover.
 
From the outset, BP was the obvious culprit, even though its state-of-the-art Deepwater Horizon Rig, which stood 378 feet from top to bottom and cost $350 million, hadn’t reported a single accident in seven years. No small feat, considering that offshore drilling, even under optimal working conditions, is dangerous work. But given its poor inspection record, it’s a wonder there were no mishaps on the rig that employed 126. The Deepwater Horizon rig was inspected only six times in 2008 instead of the mandatory 12. And while the Minerals Management Service documents said the rig was safe, it had missed 16 inspections since 2005. That same year, BP was slammed with $108 million in fines – reportedly the highest workplace safety fines in U.S. history – following a Texas refinery explosion that killed 15 workers.
 
Initially, the spotlight was on the giant energy company. But fueled by public outrage over the biggest environmental disaster of all time, and the media’s insatiable appetite for news – fact or fiction – the blame game heated up, taking on a life of its own.
 
The stuff of fiction
 
The BP story is the stuff of page-turning industrial espionage fiction. Conservative odds say the BP story is being written at this very moment. It’ll wind up a multimillion-dollar  Hollywood blockbuster, with a cast of superstars. No wonder the media, both print and broadcast, enjoyed a virtual field day with the story. Add the emotional ranting of hundreds of bloggers who milked the story for all its worth, and the world was saturated with BP sagas.
Whether information overload or contradictory stories triggered a new twist to the ever evolving  BP  mess, it got to a point where the public questioned whether BP should take all the heat.
 
Blame the contractor
 
Maybe BP’s partner, Transocean, the largest offshore drilling company, is also complicit in the spill. Following BP CEO Tony Hayward’s initial “How could this happen?” response, he quickly let loose a nasty sucker punch and said:“The responsibility for safety on the drilling rig is Transocean Transocean’s. It is their rig, their equipment, their people, their systems, their safety processes.”
 
So much for standing up for your partner contractor. To some extent, Hayward was right. Transocean did, in fact, own the $600 million oil rig, which BP leased for a tidy $500,000 a day. And Transocean hired the crew.
 
As the government and think-tank reports were released, BP’s public relations machinery shifted into overdrive. Its flack masters worked around the clock in a concerted effort to change BP’s image from bad guy to maligned victim, wrongly targeted and misunderstood good guy. A fine campaign it was.
 
How could the public not believe those compelling 30-second TV ads painting BP as the concerned, proactive citizen company that’s not shirking its responsibility, but spending millions to put hundreds of people to work cleaning up the beaches, paying millions of dollars in out-of-work insurance claims?
 
With BP’s strategically timed infomercials running around the clock, it was time for a new target. By then  it was abundantly clear that BP ran the drilling operation, and that Donald J. Vidrine, a high-ranking BP manager and one of the two on-site well-site leaders, had given the order to continue drilling, even though he was warned about the well’s integrity. According to published reports, Vidrine “gave the order to replace heavy drilling mud in the riser pipe, which leads from the rig to the well’s head, with lighter seawater, a necessary step before capping the well” (reported in The New York Times, Sept. 8).
 
Vidrine’s bad decision made it impossible for the drilling crews to control the sudden surge of  gas deep within the well. The result was one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history.
 
By the time Vidrine and other BP managers went public with their story, and it was unequivocally clear that culpability rested on BP’s doorstep, the  media and the public had set their sights on a new target – U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration. The media had flayed him. The public had tossed their new president to the lions. The Republicans were handed their enemy on a platter, ready  to be  eaten alive.
 
Beltway conservatives and Obama haters were not going to let the opportunity slip through their fingers. Since the BP spill, they’ve dragged the  president through the mud. He was a ready-made target – a still-wet-behind-the-ears liberal Washington interloper with big ideals and impossible goals. Only 18 months into his first term, and his growing army of critics were incensed that he hadn’t made good on any of his promises and achieved the impossible – righting a dysfunctional government riddled by corruption, cronyism and incompetence.
 
For the most part, the American people felt as if they were they’d been hoodwinked, sold a bill of goods.
 
The BP incident triggered an Obama assault. Critics said he failed to respond immediately. James Carville, former chief political aide to the Clintons, told CNN that Obama’s response to the spill was “lackadaisical” and that he naively believed that BP could manage the massive clean-up cleanup effort.
 
If Obama’s initial response to the BP spill was slow, should he forever be crucified for a less-than-strategic move on the Washington power chessboard?
 
Obama didn’t sit on the sidelines for long. Gulf Coast business owners said he visited the spill site several times, and his presence was more than apparent.
 
By Nigerian standards, the U.S. government’s response to the BP spill would be considered immediate. A Newsweek story dated July 26 story (Oil’s Shame in Africa) said that, according to the Nigerian government, there have been approximately 7,000 oil spills in Nigeria between 1970 and 2000. And cleanup efforts have been “halfhearted,” compensation meager.
 
No forgiveness for politicians
 
In a global context, should the remainder of Obama’s presidency be forever tainted by one misstep? Does he not deserve to be judged by his post-BP accomplishments?
 
The fickle American masses watched while George W. Bush and his hand-picked staffers managed to make every mistake in the book during his first term. If only three leitmotifs defined George W’s two presidential terms, they would be cronyism, bad management, and an appalling record of bad decisions.
 
Bush and his odd amalgam of top advisers were the proverbial gang who couldn’t shoot straight. Yet he was elected for a second term. That frightening fact defies logic. That glaring mistake by American voters is reason enough to jump off the “lynch Obama”  bandwagon and do some serious soul-searching. First, understand what he’s up against (in all fairness, Obama has an impossible job);  second, don’t be so quick to make snap, rash, harsh judgments; and third, a little knowledge goes along a long way, don’t  believe everything you read, and separate hard facts from opinion, innuendo, and gossip.