As thousands of gallons of oil a day spill into the Gulf of Mexico, after the explosion and sinking of the Deep Water Horizon oil platform, the Obama Administration increasingly finds itself under fire for it's response, or lack thereof to the disaster.
Agence France-Presse reports “Officials have consistently rejected parallels between the ongoing oil spill and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the Bush administration was slow to respond to an evolving disaster.”
As the “slow response,” to an “evolving disaster” is largely a myth created by the media and critics of George W. Bush as a convenient stick with which to beat their favorite dog, I thought it might be useful to look at the actual response to Katrina, the Bush Administration response to the tornado that wiped out Greensburg, Kan. In 2007 and this current debacle in the Gulf.
It is accurate to say the then Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown was a bumbler and in over his head.
It is neither fair nor accurate to say the federal response was slow. In fact, FEMA's response was as near text-book as you can get in the real world. FEMA generally expects to have boots on the ground 72 hours after they are requested. And this is the important part. They must be requested before the agency can act. The reason for that 72 hour response time is quite simple. As Popular Mechanics pointed out in its article Debunking the Myths of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA is not a first responder organization. FEMA provides coordination between local, state, federal and private response teams. FEMA has relatively few full time employees, most are part timers who are called out when they are needed. It takes 72 hours to get those employees, mobilized, on planes and to the disaster area and then organized.
As the editors of Popular Mechanics note, “Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors. In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.”
The delays were mostly due to local governments not moving quickly enough. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin waited until the day before the storm hit to issue a mandatory evacuation order, something in hindsight that should have been done days before when it was clear New Orleans was going to take a major hit. Most computer projections showed Louisiana losing 60,000 people to a storm like Katrina. The actual death toll? 1077-- still too many, but far less than it could have been.
Fast forward about two years, and an EF-5 tornado has struck a small Kansas town head on. Greensburg, Kan. is leveled – literally. Ninety-five percent of the town was destroyed and the remaining five percent was severely damaged. FEMA was on hand almost immediately.
A story on CNN.com quotes then-mayor Lonnie McCollum, “As I broke down my back door to go out, there's a fireman from Dodge City, Kansas," McCollum said. "He meets me as I'm digging out of the rubble to see if I'm OK. And almost the next person behind him is somebody from FEMA.”
Of course, our then-governor Kathleen Sebelius couldn't resist taking a shot at the Bush Administration saying the response was too slow because too much National Guard manpower and equipment was in Iraq.
Interestingly enough nobody else seemed to think so.
Fast forward three more years and we have the oil leak in the gulf. Eight days after the explosion Barak Obama had yet to even comment.
The administration is now claiming to have had boots on the ground from day one of the disaster. They are of course, claiming the search and rescue operations by the U.S. Coast Guard as part of the response. This is disingenuous at best.
By that metric the Bush Administration's response time to Katrina was – two hours as Coasties were on the scene conducting SAR operations shortly after the storm had passed.
At the time of the explosion there was no oil leak, no major disaster. Just a normal part of Coast Guard daily operations – finding and rescuing people lost at sea.
The administration started by roundly criticizing British Petroleum, the company which leased the rig.
He has said BP caused the leak and BP will be footing the bill. Fair enough so far as it goes.
We've had a relentless round of rhetoric from the Obama Administration.
The Huston Chronicle reports him as saying.
“I'm not going to rest … or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source (and) the oil on the Gulf is contained,” after a closed-door briefing on the recovery efforts in Venice, La.
We've even had attacks on the Bush Administration with current administration officials reportedly blaming the previous administration for the lack of oil booms to contain the spill.
The reality is, the administration is doing what politicos do – trying to capitalize on a crisis for whatever they can get out of it – in this case probably no more drilling in the Gulf.
It is also true that blaming Obama for the oil leak after a piece of equipment failed, 5,000 feet under water, is no more fair than blaming Bush for the failure of the levees in New Orleans.
In both cases man made structures failed, they do that.
What needs to happen is concentrated cleanup efforts, an investigation to find out A.) what part of the blowout preventer failed. B.) was it installed improperly and C.) if this was just an accident, what can we do to prevent it in the future.
Yes BP should pay for the cleanup, it was their rig, that's fair.
But using this to shut down an industry, which is where I fear this is headed, is political grandstanding of the worst sort – but we're used to that from this President.