Dear Mr. President, “In the name of the law, stop that oil!”

When some of your critics (ahem, Republicans) lit into you in the first week or so of the Gulf oil spill, calling it your Katrina, I thought they were just playing dirty, stupid politics. Now, it is a month later, and I’m not so sure.

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter’s Note: President Obama has had some strong words about the oil leak in the Gulf. What I’m wondering about in my daily letter to the White House is when strong action will be brought to bear.

Dear Mr. President,

When some of your critics (ahem, Republicans) lit into you in the first week or so of the Gulf oil spill, calling it your Katrina, I thought they were just playing dirty, stupid politics. The spill was a vastly different situation than Katrina from the get go, a private company was supposed to be on the case, and it was not so clear that this was an area in which the Feds had to come in with the heavy howitzers.

Now, it is a month later, and I’m not so sure.

This is undeniably the responsibility of BP, or the other companies involved. But at what point should the government simply elbow them aside? It seems like we are now screamingly close to the point (or well past it) in which you must say, “You clearly are not up to the task. We are going to unleash the full power of every possibly agency, from the Corps of Engineers, to the U.S. Navy, to the EPA, to NASA. Whatever it takes, we are going to stop this leak within the next two weeks, and then we are going to send you the bill. And if you want to pay by check that’s Obama, with one ‘o’ and I’ll need to see some kind of ID.”

Of course this brings some risk. If, for example, you took over and still failed to solve the problem, BP and Co. would no doubt love to crow, “See? We weren’t doing so badly after all!” But as it is, they seem unable to bring the situation under control, and for whatever reason our government seems unwilling to declare this a full on national emergency and take the wheel.

Maybe I’m crazy thinking this way. I’m no expert in the oil business (although I had an old Chevy that leaked a lot,) no expert in the law, and I have only limited knowledge about the full power of government in an emergency situation. But I know a lot about people standing around looking at problems while not doing much. I’ve seen it too many times. What that game is about is avoiding blame, not finding solutions, and this is beginning to smell a bit that way.

Look at it this way. If I don’t mow my grass all summer, at some point the county will send a crew, whack down the weeds, and then mail me a bill. Give me a call if you can, because I really know why we can’t do the same in the Gulf. And oh, by the way, while I wrote this another uncertain numbers of gallons of oil pumped into our waters.

Regards,

Tom

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