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White House slammed for oil spill -- Obama's Katrina?

May 24, 2010 |  7:53 am

Seawater covered with thick black oil splashes off the coast of Louisiana May 9, 2010 by Gerald Herbert:AP Photo
This is Day 35.

For more than a month, oil has pulsed into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate that is pegged at anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 barrels a day. Scientists and engineers at BP have tried unsuccessfully to cap the gusher, with another rescue effort on tap for Wednesday. Oil is coating birds, fish and shores in a horrible preview of the ecological and economic disaster that is looming. Louisiana's frustrated Gov. Bobby Jindal has pointedly asked why the federal government has deserted the state -- again."We need more urgency, we need a plan," he said.

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Critics charge that the White House has been slow to act, creating its own crisis of denial a la Hurricane Katrina. As Clinton political strategist James Carville put it, "Obama's risking everything" by deferring to BP's clean-up strategy. A native of Louisiana, Carville said on CNN recently:

I'm as good a Democrat as most people, and I think this administration has done some good things. They are risking everything by this "go along with BP" strategy... 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 is a disaster of the first magnitude, and they've got to go to Plan B.

Responding to the criticism, this week the White House will step up its rhetoric. Today, President Obama is calling governors of affected states. A delegation of senators led by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is heading to the Gulf Coast for a personal inspection. Salazar, who pledged to "keep the boot on the neck of BP," is now threatening to take over the recovery process if BP can't do the job.

But, like the oil heading for the shores, the criticisms are likely to grow even louder and could clog not only the shores but also Obama's presidency. And maybe they should.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Seawater covered with thick, black oil splashes off the coast of Louisiana on May 9, 2010. Credit: Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

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