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Gulf oil spill: Katrina on Obama administration's mind

Shortly after President Obama finished a quick, tough-talking trip to Louisiana on Sunday, his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked by reporters if Obama is mindful of the comparisons being made between the administration’s response to the ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Bush administration’s much-maligned reaction to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


In an illustration of the administration’s tightrope dilemma whenever the ghosts of Katrina are invoked, Gibbs both rejected and embraced the comparison.


"Other than the geography, I don't see how” the two disasters are similar, Gibbs said. Then he added: "I'm happy to compare the response."


Publicly, White House officials have challenged most attempts to equate Katrina and the oil spill, aggressively working to deflect the accusations of government ineptitude that dogged President Bush after the hurricane.


But behind the scenes, Katrina weighed heavily on the minds of the Obama officials who raced to Louisiana after learning of the rig explosion last month.


“From the beginning,” said David Hayes, the deputy Interior secretary, who was among the first Washington officials to respond to the accident, “we didn’t want this to be a Katrina episode, in terms of lack of coordination and help.”


Asked directly about the parallels in a press briefing Saturday, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan said, “One of the things that the president said very early on is that he wants to be aggressive and proactive and not wait for things to happen, but to anticipate them.... Clearly there are some lessons from Katrina, and adjustments in the federal government as a result of them.”


Administration officials had repeatedly “war-gamed” responding to Katrina-style disasters over the last year, including a mock oil spill drill in March.


Hayes said the drills prepared him to move immediately when he learned of the rig explosion at 8 a.m. on April 20, hours after it occurred. By 11:30, he and Interior colleagues were flying to Louisiana.


They didn’t have time to pack, so the crew bought spare underwear at a local K-Mart.


Hayes set up shop at a government command center with a direct feed to the BP response center in Houston. His boss, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, called nearly hourly for updates.


“We just went,” Hayes said in a phone interview. “We didn’t realize the significance of it [initially], but we saw the potential significance.”


The Katrina experience is well-imprinted on the man the administration tapped Saturday to lead the federal response to the spill: Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen, who stepped in to lead the Bush administration’s embattled Katrina response in September 2005.


The two disasters differ vastly in nature and in response, Allen said in an interview. After the rig explosion, the Coast Guard spent the early days on a massive search-and-rescue operation, then pivoted to coastal defense and attempted to stop the leak from the wellhead.


“We have a failure of critical infrastructure at 5,000 under the ocean,” Allen said. “That’s the only comparison to Katrina, when we had failure of critical infrastructure everywhere on land.”


--Jim Tankersley, in Washington

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I can't tell you how many times in almost 5 years that I've heard conservatives and libertarians yell that Katrina was something that should have been handled by the locals. This in spite of the fact that it was larger than 9/11, the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Northridge California earthquake and the San Diego firestorms combined.

Now these same folks, many led by Rush Limbaugh are saying that the oil spill, which is the fault of a private corporation IS suddenly the responsibility of the Federal Government. How hypocritical can they get? And to think in 2008 how many right wing media members lied that Katrina didn't cause any oil spills and therefore we should be expanding oil drilling in the Gulf.

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

Offshore drilling is dangerous to human life and the environment. And companies do it because they have been forced to by radical “environmentalists” (aka socialists).

Fantastic new land energy finds are suppressed in the news, new technologies that make energy use and recovery environmentally friendly are suppressed. And the oil companies have been thoroughly demonized. The environmentalists have prevented any sensible energy policy for more than 40 years. WE HAVE NO DRILLING IN 50 STATES, even looking for energy offshore has been made largely illegal, and anyone with sense knows that Obama will never allow offshore drilling to actually commence.

Meanwhile, we have Russia about to recover what could be our oil off the shores of Cuba, the left's utter refusal to drill in the wasteland called Anwar (on a relatively postage stamp sized part of the region) told any thinking person all they really need to know about the real goals of the environmental movement (socialism).

And the result of the environmentalists' actions? The catastrophe today in the gulf and what’s far worse, TRILLIONS of dollars transferred into the pockets of people who hate us and have used our money to develop nuclear bombs which will doubtless be used against us or our allies at some point. (So much for "helping the environment").

There is no doubt that in centuries to come, historians and scientists will blame the radical environmentalists and the politicians who allowed them to dictate policy, for the damage that nuclear weapons will no doubt cause in the future and catastrophes like the current one in the Gulf.

I am honestly and sincerely stunned that Obama would not have jumped on this immediately but he did not.

Obama FAILED TO ACT WHEN IT COULD HAVE BEEN CONTAINED. There are procedures that were not followed and now we have a catastrophe.

The Gulf of Mex. will suffer one of the largest man made ecological disasters we have ever seen. The no. one priority is to STOP the FLOW of OIL.

The southern border is the site of another grand, man made disaster. The no. one priority should be STOP the ILLEGAL ALIENS. We do not need comprehensive immigration reform, to secure the border.

Visit the NumbersUSA website and help fight illegal immigration.


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