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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Obama’s abysmal oil spill response

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recent efforts to compare the early response of President Obama to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with the early response of President George W. Bush to Hurricane Katrina are unfair to Mr. Bush.

Although it is seldom noted in articles critiquing the response to Katrina, Mr. Bush took the unprecedented step of declaring a state of emergency more than two days before the hurricane hit land. The dismal response to the declared state of emergency by then Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin cannot be blamed on Mr. Bush, and it was Monday-morning quarterbacking to blame him for not foreseeing the full extent of the colossal failures at the local level.

In March 2006, Popular Mechanics, hardly a right-wing publication, published an article debunking the myths of Hurricane Katrina. The first myth debunked was that the initial response of the federal government was subpar. The article concluded that "the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest - and fastest - rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall."

The article also noted that while computer simulations had predicted as many as 60,000 deaths in Louisiana from a storm of Katrina's magnitude, the actual death toll in the state was 1,077. Even this too-large number of deaths could have been reduced substantially had local authorities implemented existing evacuation plans upon the declaration of a state of emergency by Mr. Bush.

The Bush administration can, no doubt, be criticized for some aspects of its later response to Hurricane Katrina (errors are inevitable in any government intervention until humans become infallible), but criticism of the initial federal response to Katrina is off the mark.

Mr. Obama's early inaction in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, on the other hand, was abysmal. The main defense put forward to explain the absence of a substantial federal presence in the Gulf during the first three weeks of the oil spill is that BP misled Mr. Obama. That is, Mr. Obama made bad decisions based on faulty or incomplete intelligence. I look forward to seeing the usual leftist protesters marching and chanting in the streets and their media allies repeating their chant in press reports for the rest of Mr. Obama's term in office: "Obama lied, jobs and pelicans died."

BOB TARONE

Rockville, Md.

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