PICKET: Flashback - Obama questioned over weak Louisiana response during 2010 BP oil spill

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Obama’s last minute trip on Monday to hurricane ravaged Louisiana as an apparent response to Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s visit on Friday may be more of a pattern than some realize. When the BP Oil spill devastated his state’s coast, Louisiana’s Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, was critical of President Obama’s response to that disaster. OpenMarket.org reported: 

The Obama Administration recently used red tape to force Louisiana to stop using 16 barges that were cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico by sucking thousands of gallons of oil out of Louisiana’s oil-soaked waters.

Earlier, it delayed the clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico by months, by blocking foreign crews from operating sophisticated clean-up vessels.  The Jones Act bans foreign vessels and crews from working in U.S. waters, but it gives the president the authority to completely waive that ban if he wishes.   Obama refused to lift the ban, even though American shippers who generally support the ban said they wouldn’t object to lifting it to fight the spill.  As a result of the ban, the U.S. has rejected a lot of foreign aid from counties with expertise in fighting oil spills, and accepted only a small amount of foreign equipment to fight the spill.

Even Democrats are now criticizing the Obama administration for refusing to waive the ban to allow America’s allies to clean up the oil spill.

Governor Jindal described President Obama’s first trip to the region after the oil spill. Politico reported:(bolding is mine)

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal uses a new book to portray President Barack Obama as disconnected from the Gulf oil spill, charging that he was more focused on the political aftermath than the actual impact of the crisis.

Jindal recounts a pair of private conversations with the president that paint him as consumed with how his actions were being perceived.

On Obama’s first trip to Louisiana after the disaster, the governor describes how the president took him aside on the tarmac after arriving to complain about a letter that Jindal had sent to the administration requesting authorization for food stamps for those who had lost their jobs because of the spill.

As Jindal describes it, the letter was entirely routine, yet Obama was angry and concerned about looking bad.

“Careful,” he quotes the president as warning him, “this is going to get bad for everyone.” Nearby on the tarmac, Jindal recalls, then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was chewing out his own chief of staff, Timmy Teepell.

“If you have a problem pick up the f——n’ phone,” Jindal quotes Emanuel telling Teepell.
The governor asserts that the White House had tipped off reporters to watch the exchange on the New Orleans tarmac that Sunday in May and deemed it a “press stunt” that symbolized what’s wrong with Washington.

“Political posturing becomes more important than reality,” he writes.

What might explain why Obama and Emanuel were so angry at Jindal is that the governor released his food stamp request the previous day to the media and indicated that he wanted a response by the close of business Monday.

And after Obama instituted a moratorium on offshore drilling, Jindal recounts that the president dismissed his concerns about the economic impact of the ban.

“I understand you need to say all of this, I know you need to say this, that you are facing political pressure,” Jindal quotes Obama telling him. When the governor said he was concerned about people losing their jobs, he said the president cited national polls showing that people supported the ban.

“The human element seemed invisible to the White House,” he writes.

President Obama did declare a state of emergency in Louisiana prior Hurricane Isaac hitting the the state. According to the Huffington Post:

The White House said Obama informed Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal of the emergency declaration in a phone call. The declaration makes federal support available to save lives, protect public health and safety and preserve property in coastal areas.

Jindal, a Republican, shot back late Monday in a letter to the Obama administration that the declaration fell short of the help he was requesting.

“We appreciate your response to our request and your approval,” Jindal wrote. “However, the state’s original request for federal assistance …. included a request for reimbursement for all emergency protective measures. The federal declaration of emergency only provides for direct federal assistance.”
Jindal said the storm is forecast to strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane “and squarely impact the state of Louisiana.”

The governor said the storm now threatens the entire state.
“The speed with which this threat developed “has necessitated extraordinary emergency protective measures at the state and local government level,” he said, adding that the state has already spent about $8 million on a variety of “emergency protective measures.”

The White House did not respond immediately to requests for comment on Jindal’s letter.

Although President Obama did not win Louisiana in 2008 his recent misstep may make those in the pelican state and other places around the country wonder about his priorities.

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About the Author
Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket, a former Opinion Blogger/Editor of The Watercooler, was associate producer for the Media Research Center, a content producer for Robin Quivers of "The Howard Stern Show" on Sirius satellite radio and a production assistant and copy writer at MTV.

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