For those who ask "What would Barack do?" the answer is: Blame private enterprise. President Obama continues to vent anger at BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, for the Gulf oil spill. All the while, he has been sitting on his own hands for over a month.
"You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else," Mr. Obama ranted with histrionic outrage. Such O Force scolding borders on the surreal. This comes from the guy who used to blame the George W. Bush administration for just about every problem facing the nation. As Mr. Obama sank deeper into the mire of his own presidency, however, the Blame Bush game became increasingly worn and unconvincing. As a result, the president ferreted out other targets, including insurance companies, oil companies, Wall Street and businesses generally. Everything is somebody else's fault. In Obamaworld, bureaucrats never make mistakes.
White House propaganda aside, the administration cannot escape some blame for the oil spill because the federal government has an extremely extensive oversight role in the drilling industry. Last year, the Obama administration bestowed a safety award on the very BP drilling platform that is leaking in the Gulf. The rig was moved and started drilling in its current location in January. The Minerals Management Service, which is part of the Interior Department, inspected the rig monthly and claims it inspected the drilling platform just 10 days before the accident. The rig's emergency shutoff valve purportedly had a dead battery, which safety inspections failed to discover. So much for the efficacy of federal regulations.
Despite constantly touting transparency, the Obama administration prevented the agency most directly responsible for regulating the rig, the Minerals Management Service, from participating in hearings held about the spill last week by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Clearly, there was fear that some ill-nuanced admission might blow up the administration's carefully concocted defense that it hasn't messed up. Given how oil company executives have been drilled in past weeks, it's time for Obama officials to wade through some questions about the government's own murky role in this spill.
Presidential action during this crisis serves as a warning to other industries. From imposing retroactive penalties on BP to punishing oil companies that had nothing to do with the spill, Mr. Obama's instincts undermine confidence in his administration's fairness and competence. The Gulf spill also exposes Mr. Obama's agenda to protect government at the expense of the truth.
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