The BP oil spill continues to deluge the gulf coast regions of the United States, and the Obama administration is feeling heat from those he could usually count on to stand by him. Democratic strategist James Carville railed at the president for being slow on getting the government involved and nightly conservative basher MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann appeared disappointed with the White House’s lack of action.
A few days before the recent Congressional recess, I spoke with Congressman Charles Rangel, New York Democrat, who seemed frustrated the administration had not dealt with the oil companies before the spill (all emphasis is mine):audio
“I have a bias against the oil companies always having it just their way. Quite frankly, it may be that the administration is doing all that they can, but as a result of us never demanding more of the oil companies, now that we have a crisis, it would appear to me, that this president and other presidents always said, ‘but what if.’ It’s abundantly clear that no one said, ‘but what if.’ But [they] left it up to the oil companies to decide what we would do. The fact they are doing all that they can is not an answer. It’s what they should have done and what we will have to demand that they would do.”
Mr. Rangel also believes the administration is in the dark regarding the administration’s faith in BP fixing the break and cleaning up the spill:audio
“I don’t think the administration has the slightest clue. We’re bringing in experts now, in and outside of government, to see whether or not BP will do more. We should have had the answers to that long before we even drilled. Now we’re trying to find the answer after the problem. The potential danger was always there.”
“A month and a half after the spill began, 69 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll rate the federal response negatively. That compares with a 62 negative rating for the response to Katrina two weeks after the August 2005 hurricane.”
Mr. Rangel’s thoughts on the Katrina response comparison was slightly different but not exactly full of praise either:audio
“As partisan as I am, President Bush had many problems before Katrina. I do believe that he [Mr. Obama] will never have the response that he didn’t react timely, but in terms of the damage that is done, it could have been avoided. There’s no question that we have to look carefully when we do succeed in stopping the oil, we have to ascertain the damage.”
This kind of criticism towards the White House seems to be Rep. Rangel’s style these days. Mr. Rangel’s most recent jab at the president was the New York congressman’s comparison of Mr. Obama to former Vice President Dick Cheney. The NY Daily News reported on Sunday:
“The lack of an honest explanation [for the war] is consistent with Bush and Cheney,” he told the Daily News during an hour-long interview that touched on his ongoing ethics probe, relationship with the President and ability to get work done in Washington.
A Korean War hero, Rangel criticized the Obama White House for staying in Bush-triggered wars, saying, “We are trying to buy our friends there … stuff like that makes Cheney look good.”
Whatever Mr. Rangel’s motives, he still faces a primary in September against a number of candidates including New York State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, the son of former Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who previously held Rep. Rangel’s seat. Mr. Rangel overwhelmingly defeated Mr. Powell in 1994. One must wonder, though, if the Obama administration will look closely at this race if they do not like what is coming from Mr. Rangel.
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