|Obama finally meets with BP brass
By: Carol E. Lee and Glenn Thrush
June 16, 2010 12:19 PM EDT
|Oil giant BP has agreed to finance a $20 billion escrow fund to pay claims to people who lost income in the Gulf Coast oil spill, an administration source told POLITICO Wednesday.
Lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, who was in charge of payments to families of victims of the 9/11 attacks, will oversee the fund, the source said.
The news came as President Barack Obama finally had his showdown with top executives of BP Wednesday. The White House had announced over the weekend that it would press the company to set up a fund, which would be administered by a third party, to pay what is expected to be billions of dollars in damage claims from people and businesses up and down the Gulf Coast.
It was Obama’s first face-to-face meeting with BP CEO Tony Hayward and board chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, despite his four trips to the Gulf Coast. They met as the White House demands that BP create a third-party administered compensation fund to pay out claims filed by residents and business owners in the region.
The six BP executives arrived at the White House around 10 a.m. and were still inside after noon.
The oil giant brought its top brass, and even came armed with a top Clinton administration Justice Department official, Jamie Gorelick, whose name was floated as a possible attorney general pick for Obama. The White House side of the conference table in the Roosevelt Room was stacked: Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, five Cabinet secretaries, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Attorney General Eric Holder and top presidential advisors. Both sides had their lawyers on hand.
Obama was scheduled to spend 20 minutes in the meeting. He entered the room with an entourage: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and her coordinator for claims oversight, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Commerce Secrertary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.
The White House gave the executives a bit of cover, allowing to arrive on the side of the West Wing and walk past reporters from a distance, rather than forcing them to come through the main entrance for visitors that would have made it impossible for them to ignore the press.
But ignore the press they did, refusing to respond to shouted questions about the size of the proposed compensation fund and whether they had met with the families of the 11 workers who were killed on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig when it exploded on April 20 and sank off the coast of Louisiana.
That Stench of Rotting Bull is Just Obama’s Oval Office Speech
Posted By Jeff Dunetz On June 16, 2010 @ 5:03 am In Environment, Federal Spending, News, Obama, Politics, Regulation, taxes |
Putting aside for a second the fact that this speech was given about 50 days late, last night’s oval office speech proved that the President is not ready to be honest with the American people. For the first 30 days of this crisis, President Obama was ignoring the fact that the crisis existed, and now when he uses the oval office to give the people confidence that he is on top of the problem he spends more time trying to sell cap and trade than discussing capping the well. Essentially, he is still ignoring the crisis.
Lets take a look at the key points of the President’s speech. He begins by trying to convince America that he has been doing a great job at managing the disaster:
“… I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge – a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.”
Nobel prizes have not been impressive since Obama recived one for doing nothing and Al Gore got one for a hoax. The key is how the ideas from those great minds are implemented. The President’s management of the crisis has been horrible. Even the progressive bible the NY Times  trashed Obama’s management of the crisis:
“The information is not flowing,” Senator Nelson said. “The decisions are not timely. The resources are not produced. And as a result, you have a big mess, with no command and control.”
In other words, the leadership and management coming from the executive branch of the government has been a disaster.
Usually when I catch a political speech after its delivery, I read the speech before reading its reviews. Yesterday, our Green Room contributor Sarjex came into town with her partner and had dinner with us after a brief appearance on yesterday’s TEMS, so I didn’t get a chance to do any of it until very late last night. When I did read it, it shocked me at just how bad and tone-deaf Obama’s address was — and when I watched it on video, his delivery was even worse.
Andrew Malcolm has a great review that should be read in full, but here is a key point:
But watching the president and hearing him was a little creepy; that early portion of the address was robotic, lacked real energy, enthusiasm. And worst of all specifics. He was virtually detail-less.
After almost two months of waiting through continuously contradictory reports, an anxious American public wanted to know, HOW are you going to accomplish all this?
Even Obama’s cheerleaders over at MSNBC were complaining. “Where was the How in this speech?”demanded Keith Olbermann. Seriously.
Everyone’s assumed that fixing the leak was a given since Day Four, which was still five days before the Democrat got his big plane and presidential entourage down there. …
Trust me, the president said, tomorrow I’m going to give those BP execs what-for. As CBS’ Mark Knoller notedon his Twitter account, the president has allotted exactly 20 whole minutes this morning — 1,200 fleeting seconds — to his first-ever conversation with the corporation responsible for the disaster.
Then, he’s got an important lunch with Joe “I Witnessed the World Cup’s First Tie” Biden.
This speech was suited for Day 1 of a catastrophe, not Day 57. It had no answers at all. None. It’s as if Rip van Obama awoke after eight weeks of slumber and had been told just that morning about a massive problem in the Gulf of Mexico. For a man who has repeatedly claimed to be “fully engaged since Day 1,” and who repeated that claim last night, Obama gave every impression of still being in the spitballing stage of crisis management.
Obama didn’t even offer an original thought for spitballing. In his short presidency, Obama has had two responses to any issue: appoint a czar or create a commission. The auto industry got a czar, for instance, and the deficit that Obama’s spending has driven out of sight got a commission. Last night, Obama wanted people to know he was taking this seriously by appointing a czar and a commission, the latter of which had been announced weeks ago. That was the sum total of his substantive response last night. Small wonder Obama chose an Oval Office speech rather than face another press conference.
During the 2008 campaign, we repeatedly criticized Obama’s lack of executive experience, but perhaps even Obama’s critics might be surprised to see how badly Obama has performed in this crisis. He has nothing left to offer; Obama is running on empty. In the face of a crisis that has unfolded for almost two full months, Obama chose to talk about wind turbines. A nation waited to see if a leader would emerge from the White House, and instead it got an absent-minded professor desperate to change the subject.
Even Obama’s supporters have begun to see what his critics have long known: Obama is an empty suit. His sorry performance last night showed just how little he understands his job, the situation, and the expectations of the American people.
President Obama doesn’t like the fact that the Gulf oil spill reminds people of Hurricane Katrina, since the public response to that catastrophe hastened the decline of his predecessor’s standing. He’d prefer that the American people be reminded of something else — something that rallied people around their president.
And so he told Politico over the weekend that the oil spill has “echoes of 9/11.”
Americans thought differently about “our vulnerabilities” after the events of 9/11, Obama said, and the oil spill is “going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come.”
This is, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the most bizarre things ever said by any president.
It is worth considering the meaning of this profoundly wrongheaded analogy tonight when the president delivers his first Oval Office address — his latest attempt to minimize the political damage the oil spill is wreaking on his reputation.
The first thing that needs to be said is this: The only thing the oil spill and 9/11 have in common is nothing.
Yes, 9/11 was very important and so is the spill. But many terrible things happen, are important — and are unalike. The Haiti earthquake of 2009 and Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 were both important, but they had nothing whatever to do with each other. Nor did the tsunami of 2004 and the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Just as in those cases, what’s most notable about 9/11 and the oil spill is how essentially dif ferent they are. One was a brilliantly conceived and diabolical act of war; the other a horrific accident that was the last thing anybody wanted to happen. One was designed to decapitate the US government and deliver a mortal blow to the world’s financial system; the other wasn’t designed at all.
One was purposeful destruction intended to harm. The other is a purposeless catastrophe that was in no way intentional at all but will do great harm. One was an attack on the United States. The other was an accident.
So what on earth could the president have been thinking?
The first possibility is that there is some kind of perverse wish being expressed in these words. They have a wistful quality, as though the president wished he had a different crisis, a more popular crisis, on his hands.
Of course the fact that 9/11 would prove to be a net political benefit for George W. Bush was not the result of happenstance. It was due to the way he responded.
After a few days of discomfiting uncertainty, Bush found his voice and his purpose, delivering a series of powerful speeches that suggested a seriousness of purpose in regard to his presidential responsibilities that no one had actually expected of him.
Whatever happened afterward to shake that perspective on him in the minds of so many, the fact was that Bush had to meet the moment to secure the political advantage.
Obama has had no such moment in relation to the oil spill, because he couldn’t have. BP didn’t mean to do it and has been laboring desperately to fix what got broken. It is liable for what it did, it does not deny its own culpability, and it may itself be capsized as a result.
What the deployment of the 9/11 analogy suggests is that Obama would like to treat BP as though it were al Qaeda, at least rhetorically — a villain for him to confront on behalf of the wounded American people.
That may seem politically shrewd to Obama and his team, but it will have parlous consequences. The analogy muddies and obfuscates.
By comparing an unwanted disaster to a conscious act of war, Obama is adding an improper moral dimension to the effort to clean up the Gulf — a moral reckoning that will make it harder rather than easier to focus on the task of actually plugging the damn hole.
By likening the murder of 3,000 people and the efforts to take out the US government to a series of mistakes that added up to a catastrophe, Obama has defined evil down in a fashion that does immense violence to good sense, good taste and good leadership.
In his widely-panned, bloodless Oval Office address Tuesday night (did I call this last month or what!?), President Obama tapped his Navy Secretary Ray Mabus as the new oil spill recovery czar. Doesn’t he have enough to do leading the Navy? More to the point, as my latest column below points out, don’t we have enough czars and bureaucrats tripping over each other for Gulf headlines and photo-ops already?
Meanwhile, Mark Knoller reports that Obama is scheduled to finally meet with BP execs tomorrow at 10:15am…for a whopping 20 minutes. Where is the ass-kicking czar?
The speech was a dud, but never fear, Organzing for America is here to exploit the crisis with spam solicitations and a snazzy new green Obama hardhat graphic (soon to be the new oil recover czar’s logo, too?)!
Stuck on stupid: Obama’s czar fetish
by Michelle Malkin
Here is the Obama Disaster Management Theory: In times of crisis, you can never have enough unelected, unvetted political appointees hanging around. Nearly two months after the BP oil spill, the White House will now name an oil-spill-restoration point person to oversee recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. Too many czars have already spoiled this administration’s credibility. Might as well pile on another.
The new oil-spill czar is not to be mistaken for the old oil-spill czar, U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who was officially designated the “National Incident Commander of the Unified Command for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico” on April 30. Allen was appointed by Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano ten days after the disaster, which Napolitano claimed the administration had been on top of since, um, “Day One.”
Fifty-six days later, President Obama has deemed the leadership skills of Allen, Napolitano, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, environmental czar Carol Browner, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and the rest of his self-declared “all hands on deck” crew insufficient. The new disaster czar also comes on top of the “National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling,” created by executive order on May 22 and “tasked with providing recommendations on how we can prevent and mitigate the impact of any future spills that result from offshore drilling.”
As I’ve noted before regarding Obama’s czar-mania, this White House has bypassed the Senate advise-and-consent role and unilaterally created a two-tiered government. It’s fronted by cabinet secretaries able to withstand public scrutiny (some of them just barely) and then managed behind the scenes by shadow secretaries with broad powers beyond congressional reach. Bureaucratic chaos serves as a useful smokescreen to obscure the true source of policy decision-making. While past administrations going back to the Nixon era have designated such “superaides,” none has exploited and extended the concept as widely as Obama has (we’re up to the 40th appointed czar, by Washington-based watchdog group Judicial Watch’s count).
It’s government by proxy and government by press release all rolled into one.
According to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, the latest commissar will have the power to oversee government efforts “to increase the health and the vitality of the species there, the wildlife and the natural beauty that we all know is the Gulf of Mexico.” This will make the power-grabbing environmental lobby happy. And the new czar appointment will feed the photo-op-hungry news cycle. But instead of rushing to move “past the cleanup and response phase of this disaster,” shouldn’t this czar-crazy regime concentrate on the immediate mitigation tasks at hand?
Folks in the Gulf don’t need any more Romanov-style apparatchiks or blue-ribbon crony panels to show them the way toward relief. Florida public officials and foreign shippers say the protectionist Jones Act is preventing vessels from abroad from providing clean-up aid. And Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (R) has exposed White House obstructionism and delays in approving the construction of barrier walls to stop the oil spread. After waiting weeks for approval, Jindal received a green light from the White House to put up just five barrier islands — a minuscule amount of his plan. Tired of waiting for approval of the rest of his plan, Jindal this week ordered the National Guard to circumvent the Beltway foot-dragging and start building the walls immediately.
Executive leadership doesn’t need to be outsourced when the executive in office knows how to lead. While Obama squawks, Jindal acts. While Washington appoints more gasbags, the National Guard is dropping sandbags.
The president’s czar fetish is his crisis crutch — a desperate public-relations habit that he can’t break. What 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue needs is a visit from retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, the Hurricane Katrina military relief coordinator who offered timeless and timely advice for the disaster-stricken: Don’t get stuck on stupid.
Headline: “Obama promises a brighter day. (Details to come.)”Nobody is more impressed than I am in the president’s ability to inspire. But I am not sure his speech was all that inspirational.Maybe the location was wrong. Maybe using the Oval Office – and it was the first time the president has used it for a speech – upped the ante too much. Maybe we expected too much.Like details.
Olbermann: “It was a great speech if you were on another planet for the last 57 days.”
Matthews compared Obama to Carter.
Olbermann: “Nothing specific at all was said.”
Matthews: “No direction.”
Howard Fineman: “He wasn’t specific enough.”
Olbermann: “I don’t think he aimed low, I don’t think he aimed at all. It’s startling.”
Howard Fineman: Obama should be acting like a “commander-in-chief.”
Matthews: Ludicrous that he keeps saying [Secretary of Energy] Chu has a Nobel prize. “I’ll barf if he does it one more time.”
Matthews: “A lot of meritocracy, a lot of blue ribbon talk.”
Matthews: “I don’t sense executive command.”
Once more on Tuesday night, we were back to back-against-the-wall time. The president went for his fourth-quarter, Michael Jordan, down-to-the-wire, thrill shot in the Oval Office, his first such dramatic address to a nation sick about the slick.You know the president is drowning – in oil this time – when he uses the Oval Office. And do words really matter when the picture of oil gushing out of the well continues to fill the screen?
W. and Dick Cheney were too headlong, jumping off crazy cliffs and dragging the country – and the world – with them. President Obama is the opposite, often too hesitant to take the obvious action. He seems unable to muster the adrenalin necessary to go full bore until the crowd has waited and wailed and almost given up on him, but it’s a nerve-racking way to campaign and govern.“On the one hand, you have BP, which sees a risky hole in the ground a couple miles under the sea surface and thinks if we take more risk, and cut some corners, we make millions more. In taking on more risk, they’re gambling with more than money,” said Richard Wolffe, an Obama biographer. “On the other hand, you have Obama, who is ambivalent about risk. What he does late is to embrace risk, like running for president, trebling troops in Afghanistan and health care. But in deferring the risk, he’s gambling with his authority and political capital.”By trying too hard to keep control, he ends up losing control.
There is one line I wish he hadn’t used. After a perfectly noble declaration that “what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny — our determination to fight for the America we want for our children,” Obama added: “Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there.” I don’t think it was a moment to say that we don’t know “exactly what that looks like” when it comes to the future. Most people want the president to give the future a bit more definition.
Rolling out the military metaphors–“battle plan” and “siege” and “fight”– he again embraced the philosophy of his resident thinker, Rahm Emanuel, that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.It was an unpersuasive performance. It lacked the essential energy and mastery of detail that would show the president focused like a laser on the crisis.Instead, it caught him looking starry-eyed into the wild blue yonder.Earth to president: Come on down. He’s been hammered relentlessly for not being engaged, but he’s still not into the details of the prevention and cleanup.He’s got a czar, a commission and a dream, therefore he is. And, oh, he’s got BP to kick around and milk like a fat cow.His idea to tax all forms of carbon already failed once as the public gagged on his splurge in deficit spending.Even Democratic senators and governors fear the impact it would have on energy prices and manufacturing jobs in coal and oil states.But the idea is in play, repackaged as Obama’s answer to the Gulf spill.
Eh.I was underwhelmed by President Obama’s first Oval Office speech, as I expected to be. From the moment he began, hands folded on his desk like a well-behaved student, the imagery and energy was off, inadequate to the visual, horror-movie scope of the Gulf oil disaster.
On the upside for Obama, Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman from the Florida panhandle, expressed admiration this morning on MSNBC for the President’s speech yesterday in Pensacola, and for his Oval Office effort. That’s one, and Paul Begala, Democrat pit bull, thought it was a great
WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will confront BP Plc on Wednesday with a demand that it set aside billions of dollars to pay damages from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst in U.S. history.
BP executives, including Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, CEO Tony Hayward and BP U.S. boss Lamar McKay, were seen walking into the West Wing of the White House just before 10 a.m. ET for talks with Obama that were scheduled to last 20 minutes.
Looking serious, they barely glanced at photographers and camera crews recording their arrival. It was their first meeting with Obama since the start of the nearly two-month old crisis.
The meeting came a day after Obama, in a televised address to Americans on Tuesday night, accused BP of recklessness and vowed to fight the spill “with everything we’ve got.”
An April 20 explosion on an offshore rig owned by the British energy giant killed 11 workers and ruptured a deep-sea well. The ensuing spill has fouled 120 miles of U.S. coastline, imperiled multibillion-dollar fishing and tourism industries and killed birds, sea turtles and dolphins.
Obama wants BP to establish an independently managed fund to guarantee it would cover the billions of dollars needed to clean up the 58-day-old spill and compensate affected individuals and businesses.
There has been much debate, however, over whether the administration can legally force the company to set up such a fund, and the White House has been in talks with BP to discuss a mutually acceptable framework.
The BP executives were accompanied by the company’s legal counsel Rupert Bondy and noted Washington lawyer Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration.
The White House team included: White House counsel Bob Bauer; Larry Summers, one of Obama’s top economic advisers; Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the administration’s point man for the crisis; and a Department of Justice representative.
Setting the tone for what could be a strong message to BP, Obama said on Tuesday he would tell BP to set aside “whatever resources are required” to compensate the workers and business owners harmed by the spill.
“And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party,” Obama said.
A LEVEL OF CERTAINTY
British Prime Minister David Cameron said BP is eager to face its liabilities from the spill but it should not have to pay claims that were too far removed from the disaster.
Cameron is under intense domestic pressure to stand up for BP, which many Britons perceive is being treated too harshly by the U.S. administration to the detriment of British pension funds and other investors with big stakes in BP.
“While it’s important that they (BP) pay reasonable claims, and BP accept this themselves, they do need a level of certainty, and this is BP’s worry, that there won’t be claims entertained that are three or four times removed from the oil spill,” Cameron said during a BBC radio phone-in program.
BP said in a statement its executives looked forward to a constructive meeting. “We share the president’s goal of shutting off the well as quickly as possible, cleaning up the oil and mitigating the impact,” the company said.
James Guiang, senior portfolio manager at Millennium Global Natural Resources Fund, said BP needed to cut a deal with Obama. “Whenever you go up against a government, you’re not going to win,” he said.
Shares in BP, which have lost nearly half their value since the spill began, were down 2 percent in trading in London, underperforming a flat European oil sector index. In New York, BP’s U.S.-listed shares were down more than 5 percent in early trading.
The cost of insuring BP debt against default rose, with five-year credit default swaps hitting a record wide of 600 basis points, according to Markit.
Rating agency Fitch downgraded BP’s rating by six notches on Tuesday. Dutch bank ING said it expected other agencies to follow suit.
A team of U.S. scientists raised their high-end estimate of the amount of crude oil flowing from BP’s stricken well by 50 percent to between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day, dramatically escalating the potential fines BP faces.
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Caren Bohan and Ross Colvin; Editing by Will Dunham)