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“Nowhere in the middle is someone who actually believes in America, America’s innovative prowess, that over time–there is no short-term solution to this, but our addiction to oil drives down the value of our dollar, funds people who’ve drawn a bull’s eye on our back, promotes climate change, despoils our environment and having a policy that ends our addiction to oil–it’s not win-win, it’s win, win, win, win, win. The fact that there isn’t a single person in Congress, really taking this seriously, and the president is playing kind of rope-a-dope with this right now, I find extremely frustrating.” ~ Tom Friedman
MR. GREGORY: And we’re back to continue our discussion with our political roundtable. Let’s talk about this oil spill that goes on a month now unabated, still we have the, the, the oil gushing. James Carville, “the Raging Cajun,” lives in New Orleans now, former adviser, of course, to President Clinton and well-known Democrat, critical of the Obama administration. This is how Politico reported it on Friday, quoting Carville, “`They are risking everything by this “go along with BP” strategy …’ Carville told CNN … on Friday. `They seem like they’re inconvenienced by this, this is some giant thing getting in their way and somehow or another, if you let BP handle it, it’ll all go away. It’s not going away. It’s growing out there. It’s a disaster of the first magnitude, and they’ve got to go to plan B.'” Tom Friedman, what, what is that? What should the government be doing now that it’s not doing?
Well, obviously, there’s a short-term solution and a long-term solution. Short-term obviously you’ve got to stay on BP and stay on the situation. We’ve got an oil spill, it’s, it’s about a mile below the surface, it’s about 60 to 70 miles offshore, so it’s hard to see, OK? And we don’t exactly know precisely what environmental damage it’s going to cause, but this is enormous, and it has the potential to be the worst environmental disaster this country’s ever faced.
My criticism of the Obama administration is their approach has been “Think small and carry a big stick,” OK? Hammer BP, put it all on them.But in terms of thinking about a long-term solution to this, it’s been rather unimaginative.David, we’re really caught right now, I would argue, between petrol determinists and eco pessimists. The eco pessimists tell us, “David, Paul, you’re dead, you’re dead–climate–you’re dead, you’re, you’re–I’ll talk to you but you’re dead,” OK?The petrol determinists tell us, “Look, we’re always going to have to be dependent on oil, little boy, OK?”
Nowhere in the middle is someone who actually believes in America, America’s innovative prowess, that over time–there is no short-term solution to this, but our addiction to oil drives down, you know, the value of our dollar, funds people who’ve drawn a bull’s eye on our back, promotes climate change, OK, despoils our environment and having a policy that ends our addiction to oil–it’s not win-win, it’s win, win, win, win, win. The fact that there isn’t a single person, OK, in Congress, really taking this seriously, and the president is playing kind of rope-a-dope with this right now, I find extremely frustrating.
MR. WOODWARD: It, it, it is a potentially a giant disaster of the–I mean, most disasters come and go. 9/11 came and went, OK. This continues. And I, I picked, I picked up your newspaper on Saturday and had half a smile because it said, “BP steps up its effort,” and then I read on, “to criticize others and point the finger at others, and blame everyone.” Where are, you know, why don’t they call in Google? Why don’t they call in some of the people who have these great minds to fix it?
MR. GIGOT: Because this is a very, very hard engineering problem, a specific engineering problem 5,000 feet underwater. What does Carville want the, the government to do? They don’t have the expertise to cap this.
MS. MITCHELL: Well, it’s…
MR. WOODWARD: Well, Google’s not part of the government.
MS. MITCHELL: But they should…
MR. GIGOT: But they don’t the expertise to do this either.
MR. WOODWARD: I’m saying get smart people.
MR. GREGORY: Right. But that, but that is the issue.
MR. WOODWARD: You got to do something.
MR. GREGORY: Who’s got the expertise here? But BP has more expertise than the government does. Right? I mean, isn’t that the problem?
MS. MITCHELL: The fact is they said they had a plan when they got the permit.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MS. MITCHELL: We have people in government, in this administration as well as the previous administration, in that same division of the Interior Department. You have a Cabinet secretary very well regarded. He came in, he didn’t say to himself, to his team, “You’ve had people who go to jail in this division of the Interior Department who are permitting oil drills offshore. We’re about to recommend to the president more offshore drilling,” which everyone had agreed is a necessary part of a medium-range solution. Why didn’t they first say, “Let’s take this division and shake it out and find out what is going on in there? What is the relationship between these oil companies and the people giving them the permits?” They said they had a plan. What is so shocking, I think, to people is that the best scientists, the best minds–you’ve got a, Nobel laureate who is the secretary of Energy.
MR. GREGORY: Steven Chu, right.
MS. MITCHELL: Steven Chu. How can there not be a scientific solution? That’s what’s so shocking about this.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, what’s striking to me, Andrea, is that I think, in again, in the short run, as Paul said, this is a really difficult engineering problem. And I don’t, I don’t blame–I blame them for not having better regulated oil companies in the future. That’s something both administrations have done. Finding–that they haven’t found the immediate solution I think is…
MS. MITCHELL: But they said they had answers for these very risks…
MR. FRIEDMAN: Yeah.
MS. MITCHELL: …when they answered the question about the permit.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Yeah. to me, though, it’s really the longer…
MR. GIGOT: They did and they failed. Those answers failed.
MR. FRIEDMAN: It’s, it’s, yeah. Those, yeah.
MR. GIGOT: They had answers, but they failed.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Those, yeah. It’s really, do we have a long-term solution? Right now, you mentioned Steve Chu. Obama’s got an amazing all-star energy team…
MS. MITCHELL: Exactly.
MR. FRIEDMAN: …that could sell–they’re in a witness protection program. Have you seen any of these people?
MS. MITCHELL: Well, that’s the point.
MR. FRIEDMAN: I haven’t. You know, you have a sense that Obama is approaching this problem like every day taking a poll hour by hour. I did not support this guy to read polls. I supported him to change polls.
MR. GIGOT: Tom, if you want…
MR. FRIEDMAN: OK. And that’s not what he’s doing.
MR. WOODWARD: But there’s…
MR. GIGOT: If you want to reduce oil, you can do it pretty–you can start to do it very quickly. You can put a $3 or $4 tax on gasoline.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well…
MR. GIGOT: I know you’re for that.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Yeah.
MR. GIGOT: I, I, the president is not.
MR. FRIEDMAN: I know.
MR. GIGOT: There’s no politician I know who is. But that’s the answer.
MR. GREGORY: But can I ask a searching question, though?
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, it’s…
MR. GREGORY: Can I ask a searching question? I mean, Tom, you laid out this criticism, but what, what would you have the administration do? I’m not asking that rhetorically. I mean, what…
MR. WOODWARD: To think and engage because it is something that’s got to be dealt with. But I think the one thing we’ve learned about oil is it’s kind of answered the question why the oil companies have been making so much money. You don’t have to go down there and pump it. It just comes to you once you pierce the shell of the, of, of the bottom. And all of this is coming, you know, no pumps. It’s spewing out in a way…
MR. GIGOT: But if we stop offshore drilling, we’re not going to stop oil spills. The Exxon Valdez was a tanker spill. We’d still have to import the oil. So, I mean…
MS. MITCHELL: Yes, but this is not an inevitable accident. This was an accident caused by systems that were not there, systems that they had promised would be there, valves, we are now reading today, that were, were disregarded. There are, there are real mistakes here that need to be fixed.
MR. WOODWARD: Undoubtedly.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. WOODWARD: But it is a for a commission to do.
MR. GREGORY: It is…
MR. WOODWARD: The, the question is, what do you do now? And I, I mean, look, this whole thing may be not just going around Florida…
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. WOODWARD: …but up the East Coast.
MR. GREGORY: And you just…
MR. WOODWARD: My God, it’s going to come right here and destroy your set before, before the year is up.
MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, but just to button this up, you have an issue where you have an oil spill that continues, you have a debt that continues to go up. You talk about problems that Washington has to deal with.
Thank you, all. We’re going to leave it there. Thanks all very much.