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Yes, the BP oil spill is Obama’s Katrina

In the Gulf of Mexico, howling winds gathered and swooped down on the coast, ruining homes, destroying levees and flooding the city of New Orleans. It was an ecological disaster. It was an economic nightmare. And there was absolutely nothing the the American president could do about it. Nothing at all.

In her column today, my Post colleague Anne Applebaum points out that “The U.S. government does not possess a secret method for capping oil leaks.” She is correct. The U.S. government also did not possess a secret method for stopping hurricanes. But President Bush was not blamed for his failure to stop Hurricane Katrina; he was blamed for the federal response that followed the storm. Today, Americans know Obama cannot control the oil flow in the gulf, and they do not hold him responsible for it. But they do hold him responsible for the federal response -- and the failure of that response is what makes this disaster "Obama’s Katrina."

As the New York Times points out today, the response to the spill has been "chaotic" -- "bedeviled by a lack of preparation, organization, urgency, and clear lines of authority.... As a result the damage to the coastline and wildlife has been worse than it might have been if the response had been faster and orchestrated more effectively." Yesterday, after waiting eight weeks with no action from BP or Washington, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) finally took matters into his own hands and ordered the National Guard to build barrier walls nine miles off the coast to keep oil from reaching the Louisiana shore. Why did Jindal have to wait 56 days for help that never came? Shouldn’t the president have marshaled those resources himself -- and then, like Jindal, promised to send BP the bill? And why not the same for beach clean up? Or the broken claims process that has left tens of thousands without money to feed their families?

After Hurricane Katrina, scores of commentators on the left told us that the weak federal response was the result of Bush’s anti-government ideology -- if you do not believe in government, they said, how can you marshal the government to respond in a crisis? As the liberal American Prospect put it in October 2005, "When America needed its officials to step up to the challenge of a massive disaster, conservative government let us down."

Well now liberal government has let us down. Now we have a president who believes in government more than perhaps any before in our history -- and on his watch the federal response to a massive disaster has been nothing short of a debacle. Apparently government is just as lumbering and inefficient under Democrats as it was under Republicans.

The irony is that Obama has insisted on treating this crisis as if he were a caricature of a radical libertarian -- outsourcing every aspect to BP. Containing the oil slick so it does not reach the Gulf shore? BP’s problem. Brining in workers for beach clean up? BP’s problem. Speaking at the University of Michigan recently, Obama delivered a rousing defense of government -- but when it came to the crisis in the gulf he declared: "Government is what ensures that... oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them." If Bush had similarly outsourced the federal response to such a crisis, he would have been pilloried in the press. Yet Obama -- a self-professed advocate of big government solutions to virtually every problem facing America -- thinks this particular problem belongs to the private sector. The hypocrisy is rank. Perhaps he needs to start thinking of the crisis in the gulf as a "shovel-ready project" -- or a teaching moment for Americans on how effective big government can be. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that lesson to start anytime soon.

By Marc Thiessen  | June 15, 2010; 3:39 PM ET
Categories:  Thiessen  | Tags:  Marc Thiessen  
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Mr Thiessen,
You do not state the facts. There are thousands of people engaged by the federal government trying to stop the oil. The federal response started immediately. Why do you act as if nothing is being done? Is it laziness or just your own political hypocrisy. Obama has caused no deaths with his response. Bush's non-response lead to many deaths. Just exactly what are you comparing.

Posted by: manderso1 | June 15, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Bush was blamed for the bloated bodies in the streets of New Orleans not exactly the same as oily beaches.

Posted by: whittyone1 | June 15, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Must the Gov of a state wait for a federal response to declare an emergency?

Must the Gov of a state declare an emergency and then call in the National Guard?

Let's get the rules out there and let people know who waited to react for real Obama or Jundal(R)

Posted by: kidvid | June 15, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Bush denied there was even a problem during Katrina. People were stranded on their roofs while Bush was saying "Heck of a job Brownie". His staff had to show him videos of news coverage before he even realized the federal response was at all inadequate. Katrina wasn't mearly an act of God. New Orleans drowned because of weak leavies, making it a man made disaster. Considering it was Cheney's energy task force loosening regulations for deep sea drilling that led to this leak, this is more like another Katrina for George Bush than Obama's. The president's response hasn't been perfect. Eugene Robinson is right. This spill, however, is not even in the same species as Katrina.

Posted by: iamahab | June 15, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Bush was an incompetent boob. Obama is a thoughtful and intelligent leader. There's your difference right there.

Posted by: meuphys_rasbene | June 15, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Bush was an incompetent boob. Obama is a thoughtful and intelligent leader. There's your difference right there.

Posted by: meuphys_rasbene | June 15, 2010 5:27 PM


Obama is a thoughtful and intelligent leader? Oh, what's the point......

Posted by: bbface21 | June 15, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

i've read only enuff in this context not to estimate that noting unbelaboured responses to what might yet be understood as quite as very correct as some only might eventually apprehend, and also while others have no unfortunate need for related development instead (for such as preferred), and still quite mindful that while of each characterization yet can have agreed in many ways, and similarly, and otherwise, there is likewise, in part, nothing better insead than gladly to note the very real prospects for progress as best shared by private endeavours and (then?) public results, and to take alternatives into account also.

Posted by: cdmcl3 | June 15, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

This is the sort of intellectually dishonest, kneejerk, partisan drivel that made Jon Stewart humiliate you on his show.

I kinda felt bad for you by the end of that interview . . . but it's clear from this piece that you haven't learned your lesson.

You're attacking Obama for exercising the governmental restraint that conservatives routinely advocate - and at the same time, you turn around and describe the result as a failure of "liberal government." Exactly which one is it? Or do you even care?

Posted by: Apt604 | June 15, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

What is missing this time is the difference between 'should do' and 'should do more'.

With Katrina it was 'should do' first then the realization that 'can do' was a desirable option, even for some people who matter.

Posted by: gannon_dick | June 15, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Dear Obama-zombies and gratuitous, servile liberal shills:

Everybody knows Obama was absolutely, reprehensibly dilatory and ineffectual in his response to this -- to the horrible detriment and exacerbation of the catastrophic situation in the gulf.

That's what you get with a self-preoccupied radical authoritarian hack who has no qualifications nor any clue whatsoever on what it means -- what it requires -- to lead this republic.

It was the fed gov's business to get things done here -- disaster- and emergency-response are among the things the fed govt is actually SUPPOSED to be thoroughly involved with.

Obama could have substantially mitigated this disaster by ensuring that the considerable resources and logistical capabilities of the United States were brought to bear; and also by accepting aid from other nations. Instead, this hemming-and-hawing windbag jackass couldn't wait to run to the teleprompter and start with the politicking and finger-pointing and useless rhetoric. To say the least, his sense of priorities is so bad, one cannot help but think it's indicative of another pathology -- to go along with his pathological narcissism.

So, lib shills and enthralled Obama-zombies: we already know he sucks. You can admit it, too. What's obvious is obvious. Go ahead, give up the unconditional Obama-support as the bad job that it is. You'll feel better.

Posted by: finsher771 | June 15, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

@Apt604 -- you reference Jon Stewart in your "knee jerk" unconditional defense of your false idol Obama.

Did you see that segment "The Spilling Fields," where Stewart thoroughly disparages Obama for his "response"?

You libs ... not the sharpest tools in the shed.

Posted by: finsher771 | June 15, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Gee I thought the oil spill was an industrial accident, and the the private sector, who caused it, should be responsible. Where are the cries about the Obama socializing the oil industry? You'll have to ask Bobby "State''s Right" Jindal why he waited for Uncle Sam's blessing before acting in the state's waters? Bush would have gotten crucified by teh right for interfering in the private sector for doing half of what Obama has done federally in this industrial accident.

Posted by: tianyisun | June 15, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

You cite a NY Times article as evidence that the response to the oil spill has been chaotic. But you miss the point of the article. The response has been chaotic because BP, the federal government and state/local government did not have a good plan in place prior to the spill. You make it sound that the blame lies with Obama and Thad Allen.

As for Jindal's plan for berms, it wasn't approved quickly because it is so poorly conceived that it may actually make the problem worse. BP, the Army Corp of Engineers and environmentalists all thought it was a bad idea. BP finally agreed to pay for a part of the plan, but with the understanding that it took no responsibility for the consequences. Of course, the media is never willing to ask any hard questions when it doesn't fit the narrative. Jindal's a political opportunist, who is playing the media.

But what is even more incredible is that we are still not ready for a catrastrophe of this magnitude, yet Bobby wants to continue with the risky drilling. Geeesh.

Posted by: OC1Kenobi | June 15, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

finsher771, I didn't provide an unconditional defense of Obama. What I said was that Thiessen's particular attack made no sense. Please read more carefully.

Posted by: Apt604 | June 15, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Where is Dick Cheney in all of this?

Hello, Dick, are you out there?

Posted by: OC1Kenobi | June 15, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

finsher771--ease up on the rhetoric. Can you tell me what resources were available and not brought to bear? Can you tell me what foreign offers of assistance were turned down to the detriment of the region? Please tell me you didn't get your information from Mark Levin.

Posted by: OC1Kenobi | June 15, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

kidvid - The spill happened outside of Louisiana's waters, in federal areas, therefore it was indeed a federal problem to begin with.

Posted by: madmike272 | June 15, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

"Bush was blamed for the bloated bodies in the streets of New Orleans"

Some people did that, but not the ones who had more than half a brain.

They recognized that most of the blame lay at the feet of governor of louisiana and Ray "Chocolate" Nagin and the corruption these people encouraged.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | June 15, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Certainly no one can tell Obama, "Heck of a job, Brownie".

Posted by: oldno7 | June 15, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

FEMA is the federal agency responsible for responding to disasters. Bush destroyed the agency with his crony appointments. You can't rebuild organizational capacity or replace the talented and dedicated people in a few months.

Bush: the disaster that keeps on giving.

Posted by: j3hess | June 15, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse


It's fascinating: you look like someone who'd write a column like this one.

Funny how people look like what they are.
If young women, for example, paid attention to their first impression of a, say serial killer...probably a warning one,

perhaps such could be avoided.

Thiessen looks like a thuggish moron. Some little twit who had an inside in a new republican administration, maybe a father who gave a bunch of bucks

maybe he worked for the right person who was close to the candidate...his jobs were all that kind of thing. Saw so many of them early on in the Reagan Administration.

Thiessen does look like what he is. That's not a compliment.

Posted by: whistling | June 15, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse


It's fascinating: you look like someone who'd write a column like this one. Thuggish and rather stupid.

Funny how people look like what they are.
In this case, we get only a really stupid
one note, same thing, blustering blab from a slob. Our own fault for reading it.

The Washington Post has a stable of such.
Not a decent writer among them.

Posted by: whistling | June 15, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Theissen is trying to manufacture his own reality again. He thinks that by saying that the oil spill is Obama's Katrina, that we will all believe it, and it will become the truth.

Well it's just like "mission accomplished" - NOT TRUE!

Posted by: kurthunt | June 15, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

The knock against Obama is mainly that he didn't cave into Jindal and Nungresser soon enough on the sand berm plan.

Thing is, the sand berm plan seriously flawed.

It's certainly a gamble and may prove to be a huge mistake.

I would ask, who would be in favor of spending $350 million in tax dollars to build a wall of sand in the open Gulf that is going to be washed away almost before the wall is finished?

Posted by: PostSubscriber | June 15, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Is this guy STILL issuing his polemics from the pages of the Post? How long until the Post hires Michael Brown or Scooter Libby?

Posted by: osullivanc1 | June 15, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives come and go, Moderates come and go, but nothing burns quite like a liberal Democrat back peddling over the facts with lit match and a can of gasoline.

Posted by: elcigaro1 | June 15, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

FEMA is the federal agency responsible for responding to disasters. Bush destroyed the agency with his crony appointments. You can't rebuild organizational capacity or replace the talented and dedicated people in a few months.

Bush: the disaster that keeps on giving.

Posted by: j3hess | June 15, 2010 9:15 PM
Obama: the disaster that keeps on blaming.

This administration is wrecking this country for the last 18 months and whenever something goes wrong it blames its recklessness and incompetence on Bush. Liberal accountability, contradiction in terms.

Posted by: jmk55 | June 15, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

When more than 1800 people die as a result of the oil spill and people are stranded without food and water, then we can compare it to Katrina. Until then, this lame attempt by conservatives to play the comparison game is laughable.

On the other hand, I am heartened by this sudden concern for the environment from conservatives. Apparently, all it took was a Democratic president. Kind of like their born again conversion as responsible fiscal stewards.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | June 15, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Fact: Katrina was an act of nature (or God depending on your point of view).
Fact: The warnings were available for days before Katrina hit the coast.
Fact: The BP oil disaster in the gulf was of manmade origin.
Fact: There was no prior warning that the rig would explode.

Try pinning this on Obama all you want, the facts speak for themselves.

Neither Bush nor Obama were directly responsible for the two disasters mentioned. However, the lumps come with the responses before, during, and after the disasters.

The far right will stop at nothing to find fault with Obama because they know that Bush was a disaster for 8 long years.

Posted by: EarlC | June 15, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Obama's job was to ensure that the spill did not reach land. As President of the United States, it was HIS job to protect our coast. Turning down help from other nations, blaming BP, dithering, etc., resulted in an environmental disaster which he is responsible for.

Posted by: thinker16 | June 15, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

My reaction to all this is let those states that voted Republican in 2008 because they think that the Federal government is too big and intrusive deal with their own disasters. Obama is a better person than most Republicans that I know because he is willing to tackle disasters even when they hit Republican states. This disaster proves that there is indeed a role for government to have in the lives of citizens if nothing more than to regulate those entities that seem to think that they have the right to walk all over us. I'll gladly pay my fair share of taxes to have decent roads, schools, armed forces, and so forth. I prefer to live in a country that is world class than one that is third world. These people who always want something for nothing irritate me. When disaster strikes, I do not hear anyone wishing that the government would do nothing. Even those who do not want to pay taxes want their handouts when disaster strikes. I wonder if they know where this money really comes from.

The governor of Mississippi is such a two-faced individual. He wants to get to the bottom of the oil disaster but wants to keep drilling without waiting for the findings. Gov. Barbour is such a joke. Reasonable people know reasonable responses when they see and hear it.

Posted by: EarlC | June 15, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

"Obama's job was to ensure that the spill did not reach land. As President of the United States, it was HIS job to protect our coast."

Didn't you ever hear the legend of King Canute? Yeah, the king taught his foolish court a lesson by going to the seaside and commanding the waves and the tide to stop.

If you have a good idea to contain and pick up the oil spill, go to and submit it for review. Don't waste your brilliance here.

Posted by: PostSubscriber | June 15, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

RE: "Yet Obama -- a self-professed advocate of big government solutions to virtually every problem facing America -- thinks this particular problem belongs to the private sector."
1) Nice straw man argument. Please point out in any speech, written word or even off-the-cuff comment that indicates Obama believes government will "solve" all of America's problems. Typical black and white, all or nothing conservative thinking (if 'thinking' is what you want to call it). Yes, surprise! government has a role to play in some problems - just read the comments from fellow conservatives, howling now about the inadequate government response. Apparently, THEY see value in government involvement.
2) Why wouldn't this be a private sector problem?? It was BP's oil rig, paid for with BP money, staffed with BP employees. Any particular reason why it would not be their responsibility to solve it? Conservatives are all for privatizing profits and socializing risk, and this article is a perfect example of it.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | June 15, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Thinker16 is joking. Thinker16 is not thinking clearly. The last time that I checked, the one who causes the harm should be responsbile for taking appropriate actions to prevent further harm as well as to take care of the harm done. As a taxpayer, I resent my hard earned dollars being used to take care of someone elses negligence. It seems that I heard this sentiment a lot regarding the Wall Street bailout in 2008. Bailing out BP is such another nice deal for the arrogance of another corporation. Also, the writer wants to blame Obama for not being able to deliver on something that is not his to deliver on. Also, he has his facts wrong. I think that he has been listening to too much Fox noise and not good media sources.

Posted by: EarlC | June 15, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

"They recognized that most of the blame lay at the feet of governor of louisiana and Ray "Chocolate" Nagin and the corruption these people encouraged."
Posted by: Ombudsman1

Uh, what caused the bloated bodies was not the hurricane itself but the levies that broke, federal levies, ya know, as in the federal government is responsible for those levies, as in the federal government should act when its levies break.

I'm no fan of Nagin, but the levies were a federal responsibility, and we all know how republicans feel about responsibilities, ya know, like they are for someone else.

Obama is taking responsibility for forcing BP to act not only on stopping the spill but in protecting the environment (ya know, that thing the lefty loony environmentalists keep harping about) and bringing the military to bear to monitor BP, monitor the protections, monitor the cleanup and report problems. There is a USCG admiral in charge. Bush sent the former Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association to oversee the federal response to the broken levies. Get the difference? If not then you should just stay out of this conversation.

Posted by: Fate1 | June 15, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Well, there is one difference.

One was a natural disaster and the other, a Cat 5 hurricane.

Posted by: MadamDeb | June 15, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

EnemyoftheState: Correct on all counts. I would only add that many of those people who were able to escape the water or who were rescued from their own rooftops were then warehoused like chickens in a filthy stadium where families literally had to scrounge around to find a place to sleep that was not fouled with their own waste. "Obama's Katrina" -- I am so tired of this utter garbage.

Posted by: Janie14 | June 16, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I guess you didn't see the video and transcripts uncovered 6 months after Katrina that clearly show President Bush being forewarned by Gov. Blanco, the Head of the Hurricane Center, and the Head of FEMA that the levees might be breached and that this storm was very likely to be devastating. Bush seemed indifferent and days after Katrina stated that "no one could have foreseen the breach of the levees." This video showed him caught in a lie and fully warned.

And I suppose in your mind the deaths of 1800 Americans does compare to no deaths after the initial 11 in the oil explosion?

Let's see, the oil spill is Obama's Katrina. The underwear bomber was Obama's Katrina. H1N1 was Obama's Katrina. Haiti was Obama's Katrina. The GM Bankruptcy was Obama's Katrina. The Ft. Hood shootings were Obama's Katrina. Even the Kentucky ice storms were Obama's Katrina. Hasn't the right wing ever heard the story of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf"? What's almost as bad is that the so-called liberal media seems complicit in this spin.

For 57 months I've heard Republicans yell that the Katrina response was not a Fed. issue, but a local one. Now that a PRIVATE corporation is at fault it's suddenly a Federal responsibility. Talk about your hypocrisy!

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"

Posted by: patriotpaul | June 16, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Rather and “ass kicking” and ridiculous posturing, what thinking Americans want is REAL solutions showing REAL leadership, including:
 Reassurance that the government will end attempts to KILL millions of additional jobs and the U.S. economy with SCAMS such as the cap and trade SCAM.
 Information on the best ideas offered by scientists and entrepreneurs worldwide to stop the spill and to clean the ocean.
 Information on how the administration is working with BP to help BP implement the best ideas.
 Information on how the administration is helping the affected states implement cleaning operations.
 Details on how to end government regulations that force companies to drill in places where spills are difficult to contain.
 Details on how the government will improve its failed monitoring of offshore drilling without just throwing more of our money to the problem.
 Details on how the government will open the multiple areas in the U.S. that contain more oil than we need, so oil can be accessible and cheap for Americans without us having to depend on our enemies for oil. DRILL, baby, DRILL -- in safer locations.
 Details on how to end destructive government regulations that prevent development of other RELIABLE sources of energy (coal, gas, etc.).
 Details on how to end destructive government regulations that prevent scientists and entrepreneurs from working on developing NEW and RELIABLE sources of energy.
 Reassurance that the government will end regulations that prevent entrepreneurs and scientists from developing the RELIABLE sources of energy that American companies and individuals need to develop and prosper.

Posted by: AntonioSosa | June 17, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

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