There is some optimism that the latest effort to cork the oil leak has been successful, but I take it no one is uncorking the champagne bottles just yet. It will be a few days before they know for sure if the leak is permanently plugged.

The Right sees blood in the water, not oil. They are still drooling that the oil leak is “Obama’s Katrina,” which sounds like a great name for a race horse, but never mind. I don’t want to jump too quickly into making long-range comparisons, because people’s perceptions of an event can change over time. But right now, it seems Oil Blob isn’t as damaging to Obama as Katrina was to Bush.

If you go to the “disasters” section of, and scroll down a bit, you can see the results of post-Katrina polls from 2005. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll taken Sept. 26-28, 2005, had a majority disapproving of the way President Bush handled Hurricane Katrina by 54 to 40 percent, 6 percent unsure. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, taken May 21-23, showed the public disapproving of the way President Obama is handling the oil spill by 51 to 46 percent, with 3 percent unsure.

Now, this could change. If more information comes out that there were things the federal government could have done to stop or slow the spread of oil that were not done, the disapproval spread could increase. I haven’t heard much yet about how much damage the Blob is doing to the fishing and tourism industries along the Gulf Coast, so there could be more bad news ahead.

But, again, if you move up the “disasters” page and look at polls taken early in 2006, it seems disapproval of Bush’s handling of Katrina had grown much worse from what it had been in September 2005. In a poll taken February 2006, 72 percent said Bush had “no plan” to help the people left homeless by Katrina. In April 2006, people disapproved of Bush’s handling of relief for victims by 59 to 37 percent.

IMO the continuing damage to Bush was not just that he didn’t respond well to the Katrina disaster as it was happening; it was that as days and weeks and months went on, the Bush Administration continued to not respond.

Regarding Oil Blob, people are not impressed with the Obama White House’s actions, but they blame BP more. A CBS News Poll of May 20-24 showed people disapproving of the administration handling of the Blob by 45 to 35 percent, 20 percent unsure; but they disapproved of BP by 70 to 18 percent, 12 percent unsure.

And if you look around the pollingreport energy page, you see that support for offshore drilling has dropped like a rock since the BP disaster. Although there are exceptions.

My impression at the moment is that the Obama Administration could have been more publicly assertive about the Blob — waved their arms about a little more, as it were — but it’s not clear to me there was more the federal government could have done to lessen the disaster (other than go back in time and force BP to follow safety protocols before it happened). Maybe there was, and if we find out there was then certainly the Obama Administration deserves to be criticized.

On the other hand, someone on another blog asked if the government was supposed to dismiss BP and then send the oil leak a sternly worded warning to cease and desist. Heh.

My sense of the thing is that if the administration is reasonably pro-active in whatever assistance and cleanup is needed in the next few months, then the political damage won’t come anywhere close to the environmental damage. For most of the country the Blob is a big concern but less of an emotional gut punch than the days after Katrina were. And so far, the president hasn’t strutted around grinning like a big doofus telling people they’re doing a heck of a job, when the job obviously was not being done well at all.

18 thoughts on “Corked?

  1. I heard most of Obama’s press conference over NPR this afternoon while driving back from my nieces oboe recital in upstate NY. He took responsibilty for what the Federal Government has done, and will continue to do. But he also said that the government has neither the equipment nor the resources that BP and other oil companies can bring to the spill.
    One of the heads of MMS either resigned or pushed out today. Obama made a big point about the cozy relationships between the oil companies and the people who work at MMS, and said that Ken Salazar had been, and will continue looking into that fiasco (my word, not Obama’s).
    The President also talked about how a well this far out in the ocean, and this deep, 3 miles, is symbolic of the fact that oil is getting scarcer, and we need to find alternatives quickly. Yet, Republicans continue to politicise the Gulf disaster. Instead of rallying around what Kerry, Lieberman and Graham have already set a foundation for, they, of course want to blame Obama, and put the brakes on anything constructive we could do in the wake of this catastrophe. Bush era ABC has been morphed by Republicans into ABO – Anything But Obama.
    I don’t know what more The President could have done, short of asking Congress to subpoena the leaking oil well. The oil well, like Bush Administration officials, I’m sure would have ignored the subpoena and not have shown up for the hearing. The well would have reasoned, hey, if subpoena’s for the leak of a CIA agents identity can be ignored, why pay attention to a subpoena for a little leak of oil.

  2. I don’t think “Obama’s Katrina” is going to stick at all. Losing New Orleans and the in-your-face grinning chutzpah and incompetence that followed, was one of the events of 2005 (Terry Schiavo was the other) that marked the apogee of Bush’s influence. Finally the country started to wake up to what an a$$ he and his people were, and he slowly transformed into a sad joke and a byword. It was all downhill after these two signature events.

    Obama’s arc, on the other hand, is still rising, and the man is running on a few more cylinders than Bush ever did on his best days. There are also the other differences between Katrina and the BP disaster, that you’ve pointed out.

    I’m a lot more concerned about where we go from here as a country regarding energy policy. Like 9/11, which provided a golden moment of opportunity when great things could’ve been done had we done the job of pulling the world together – an opportunity that was completely perverted and squandered by the sociopaths in charge – this disaster is likewise a sobering moment when we as nation could get serious about creating a meaningful plan for dealing with energy and the environment.

    Although I often hear that Obama is a big thinker, a lack of bold leadership on his part will lead to ever more polarization and fragmentation about these issues. Without bold leadership seizing the moment, what will happen is that as soon as gas goes north of $4.00, people will forget about the disaster, and the drill-baby-drill crowd will start beating the drums (again). And even the best leadership will be fighting the headwind of the alternative reality illusionists at Fixed News and the VRWC.

  3. I hope this is our “Three Mile Island” event that will put an end to offshore drilling for a long time. We have to face the dirty and inconvenient truth that our energy focus must change now.

  4. With Katrina, it became obvious that the Bush and his Administration could care less about the People in Louisiana who were hurt by Katrina because they were Democrats and did not vote for him. Wherein, Mississippi, which was hit by Katrina, too, but had a Republican Governor, was more worthy of Bush and his administration’s help. The callousness with which all that unfolded as a result of Katrina was an appalling thing to watch day after day for about a week. Obama is not and never has been callous about people in danger and needing help from the Government. He also would not evaluate their worthiness for help by what political party they belonged to. This oil spill, while catastrophic to natural resources, still does not seem to be impacting the large number of people that Katrina impacted.

  5. A petrolium engineer with experience in deepwater drilling is not going to work at the EPA or any other government agency because he/she can easily command a 6-figure salary working for BP. So the feds don’t have ‘experts’ on staff. BP has the most to lose financially from this spill and they have the expertese on staff. Had the feds moved in after the first week, BP ‘s lawyers would claim that interference from the government relieves BP of liability.

  6. Excellent post and comments, and the only piece of info I might add is the unscientific “insta-poll” CNN ran on its website last week, right after Rand Paul’s whine, in which 87% said they disagreed with Paul about Obama being too hard on BP. So I guess that’s a tiny win: Rand Paul, at least, has been “corked.”

  7. The incident which exposed how incompetent FEMA was – Wal-Mart got to New Orleans with free supplies before FEMA. The excuses just didn’t cut it after that. We have a 6-month freeze on offshore drilling as of today. The blame which they can hang on the feds is that they (legislators and fed agencies) believed the oil giants – that drilling was safe and everything was under control. No one should believe that now.

  8. “I don’t know what more The President could have done, short of asking Congress to subpoena the leaking oil well”

    Obama should have made a big deal of this publically from the start; he claims they have been on it from day one? Maybe so but I don’t feel a sense of urgency, I mean this may wind up being the biggest environmental disaster in our countries history. I’m not sure he could do more but I really feel his administration has slow walked this thing, I mean 40 days to finally hold a press conference? I’m an Obama supporter but I really think they screwed the pooch on this one, time will tell.

  9. Obama can win this with unrelenting insistence on BP paying for the cleanup through an intensive program supervised by EPA-hired personnel. Talk about your economic stimulus opportunity! BP will just have to keep writing checks as long as there is oil to be cleaned up. I understand Exxon is still fighting the payout for the Alaska damages. That can’t happen this time.

    On a related note, how long will it be till the Republicans start sticking up for BP in an atttempt to socialize the losses? This will turn out to be their chance to demonize Obama as anti-business. Can’t wait to see the baggers response. If they want big government to clean it up, they’re philosophically inconsistent with their claimed libertarian principles. If they stick to market forces as a driver for corporate responsibility, they’re claiming their foolhood. If they say it is government’s fault, they’re dreaming of a far-reaching power delegated to “faceless bureaucrats” that might have prevented the problem if only there were thousands of petroleum engineers supervising all the oil drilling operations.

    Finally, will somebody tell that twit Jindal to STFU about asking for help until he is willing to admit that he has accepted stimulus help, passed out the money without giving recognition to its source, and now wants more? And he needs to say please and thanks.

  10. Here are several things to think about; Offshore oil technology is an amazing science blending seamanship and mining in one of the most hostile environments.
    It is hard to imagine the precision required to hit a wellhead dead center from nearly a mile overhead, especially when taking into consideration wind, waves, and ocean currents. When discussing offshore oil, bear in mind there is far much more to it than erecting a drilling rig ( a major feat in it’s self), the infrastructure must be in place to transport the oil from the well to tankers or an onshore facility, there must be a near by port to provide supplies and equipment, there needs to be transport for the crews, and there must be skilled workers and professionals to man the numerous positions.Add to this the business infrastructure associated with it from finance to public relations.There is more money invested in the industry than one can imagine, and so long as things go well most of the time, the investment pays off.
    The worst part of the whole mess is, it is a dead end street. Oil is a finite resource which pollutes in many ways.As the resource gets scarcer and the demand continues to rise, the cost will increase. The costs include continued expanding wars and environmental destruction.The results will be higher costs for everything from transportation to food.There should be a “manhattan Project” for alternative energy.George Monbiot has been warning of this for years.Oil production effects every facet of our lives.
    The scope of the destruction will come to light over the next few months.It appears that the water column has been heavily affected, and it appears that the “authotitahs” have gone to great lengths to hide the heavy toll suffered by the marine life( from plankton to whales), we can talk body counts all day long, but one photo showing piles of dead and dying birds or dolphins can cause far more emotional and political damage.
    As far as who is to blame, it is a collective “we”.
    We all go along through life making our way and trying to do the right things.
    Few of us would ever think of dumping toxins on a neighbor’s property or fire bombing a family on the other side of town because they have a gun collection, or organizing a group of friends and family to raid a blueberry farm to get berries at a better price.Few of us would think it sane to spend over half of our paycheck every week for guns and ammo while we let our kids have rotten teeth.
    We seem to be a group of over stressed, over worked serfs crying out for more stress and more work; and we are lead by people who encourage us to do just that.

  11. erinyes,
    It helps if the over worked serfs are scared. Ignorant is a big bonus, too. See fear-mongering, bad schooling, FOX, talk radio, and other media conglomerates.

  12. Finally, will somebody tell that twit Jindal to STFU about asking for help until he is willing to admit that he has accepted stimulus help, passed out the money without giving recognition to its source, and now wants more? And he needs to say please and thanks.

    Gov. Bobby wins “Most Punchable Politician of the Month” Award. This morning NPR reported he wants money from the feds, and for them not to give him any direction on how to spend it.

    As far as who is to blame, it is a collective “we”.

    This occurred to me the other day, and it was a hard thing to admit to myself. I can grumble and cuss all I want to about the business-suited worms at BP, Halliburton, etc., and then I go fill my gas tank (NOT at a BP station, but irrelevant). As a member of the oil-guzzling society that encouraged BP to drill in the deep ocean, I have to be honest with myself about contributing to the whole damned mess.

  13. Shouldn’t the teabaggers be organizing dawn soap bird washes? …you know, to prove that private citizens can do it better than the federal government.

    Didn’t think so. The odds are about as good as them volunteering for service in Iraq.

  14. In an effort to alter perceptions and expectations BP is lobying Congress to change the name of the Gulf of Mexico to the Black Sea. (Yes, it’s a joke)

Comments are closed.