Opinion: BP oil spill worst in U.S. history -- political fallout for Obama even deadlier as GOP launches powerful attack


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It’s now Day 40 in the BP oil spill. An estimated 18 million-39 million barrels of oil have spewed into the Gulf, poisoning fish and birds, destroying lives and businesses, ruining fragile marshlands and eocsystems for generations, the worst spill in U.S. history. With a fix uncertain, scientists estimate that the oil already spilled now covers 30,000 square miles, the size of South Carolina. Which means that the oil spill is now larger than 10 states.

Politically, the fallout could be even worse. Like George W. Bush, whose lethargy in responding to Hurricane Katrina made him a political lame duck, President Obama is now being battered by critics on both sides who think he still does not seem engaged in unleashing the huge powers of the federal government to cap the spill and try to wall off the muck that’s heading for the shores. Exhibit A among critics: Obama didn’t know if Minerals Management Service head Elizabeth Birnbaum was fired or resigned.


Among Democrats, Louisiana’s Charlie Melancon broke down in tears when talking about the devastating financial and ecological impact on his state. In New Orleans, former Clinton campaign strategist James Carville derided the president for being detached and lackadaisical. And from Pennsylvania, Gov. Ed Rendell pointed out that this is a matter of presidential style. “If Bill Clinton was president,’ Rendell quipped, ‘he’d have been in a wetsuit, you know, trying to get down to see the spill.’

As for Republicans, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has released an ad scorching Obama by replaying his campaign promises not to repeat the errors of Katrina.

And if anyone wonders, Obama may be getting even worse reviews at home. As he recounted Thursday, he awakes in the morning to his 11-year-old daughter Malia asking, ‘Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?’

-- Johanna Neuman

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