Top Kill

Top Kill

top kill oil cartoon
  • Mary

    Good one. Sadly it’s most likely true. This is a real pickle that I don’t know if any sitting president would know how to handle. But the fact that Obama got so much campaign funding from BP is the killer. I wish this oil dabacle would somehow wake people up and eradicate corruption, but I’m not too optimistic that anyone at the top is interested in taking away a greater altruistic lesson. When you’re “On Money” the main side effect is a lack of empathy for other sentient beings.

  • mdgeorge

    For me personally, the BP gusher doesn’t reflect on Obama. AFAICT there is no good response that could have come from the feds. I’m curious if other donklephanters feel the same way. I see a lot of “Obama’s Katrina” references in the media, but I wonder if the public actually feels that way.

  • Chris

    From what I’ve read, BP itself did not donate any money to Obama’s campaign, BP employees donated a total of 77k to him over the course of his senate and presidential campaigns.

    During the campaign Obama received 900k from the oil and gas industry, and mccain received 2.4 million.

  • kranky kritter


    I agree 100%. “Obama’s Katrina” sounds to me like something that a spin team had ready and prepared in a box. Just add water and use.

    Whenever there’s an especially troubling event with ongoing tragedy mixed in, there’s a lot of freeform anger, and that anger always needs something to latch onto, to blame righteously.

    This spill is surely an epic catastrophe. It will quite likely have lingering effects for generations, Even BP’s COO acknowledged that this event will result in big changes in how oil companies operate. (as it should, BTW).

    Even though it’s all very troubling, I try to stick with the known facts and use parsimony in trying to explain things. Something went very wrong on that rig, and I’m really not sure exactly how preventable it was in a world rife with human error. I’m also not sure what the feds could have done to more quickly mitigate the negative effects. To my knowledge, the government doesn’t have a 10 million mile spool of containment boom handy. Or a giant cork and a four-mile long hammer.

    In the future, I expect regulations to center around those two things. We’ll expect more of a” belt-suspenders-and diaper” approach to iffy enterprises like drilling for oil miles and miles underwater, And no one gets an argument from me if they say that should have already been in place and enforced.

    And we’ll probably end up with some sort of collective approach where oil companies are required to maintain a readiness team and readiness kits with the capacity to quickly control a really big spill. Which makes a fair amount of sense as well.

    Of course, in the end, oil consumers will pay for all of that, like it or not.

  • Simon

    I think the Katrina analogy is apt. In both cases, you have a disaster that drops into the lap of a President who was basically powerless to prevent it. It’s true that in both cases, you can say that there were regulatory failures or things that could have been done ex ante (charges are levelled against the ACoE re the levies, for instance, or improbable charges that different regulations could have prevented the blowout). But the fact is that President Obama could no more prevent the DH explosion than President Bush could prevent a hurricane from hitting New Orleans.

    And in neither instance was the disaster itself the locus of criticism. Bush caught hell because his response to Katrina was perceived as inadequate. (Whether or not it was is, frankly, irrelevant.) He failed to take charge of the situation, the narrative goes, or to accord the disaster attention and resources in proportion to its magnitude. And that is precisely what Obama is facing. His response is perceived as inadequate, and it doesn’t matter for political purposes whether it’s true. He has failed to take charge of the situation. That isn’t just a perception, it’s a fact (not that it matters). For weeks, he failed to accord the disaster attention and resources in proportion to its magnitude, and arguably that remains true today.

    There is more that the government can do. It is certainly true that the government has no expertise in handling mile-deep oil wells. But I find it extremely implausible that BP is the only company that does have that expertise. Other oil companies drill deep wells. Other countries have had to clean up giant oil spills. The Obama administration has, thusfar, acted as if its role is to back up and support BP. Instead, the government should be managing the effort and enlisting the expertise of every oil company (etc.) on the planet to help plug the leak and clean up the mess.

    In a crisis, the President’s job is to lead, not blame everyone else.

  • WHQ

    This I can agree with:

    There is more that the government can do. It is certainly true that the government has no expertise in handling mile-deep oil wells. But I find it extremely implausible that BP is the only company that does have that expertise. Other oil companies drill deep wells. Other countries have had to clean up giant oil spills. The Obama administration has, thusfar, acted as if its role is to back up and support BP. Instead, the government should be managing the effort and enlisting the expertise of every oil company (etc.) on the planet to help plug the leak and clean up the mess.

    But one big difference between Katrina and this oil disaster is that there were no (nationally broadcast!) forecasts for the oil disaster. It wasn’t just the response, but the short-term preparation in the days before Katrina hit that was worthy of criticism. If Al Roker had been blabbing about Deepwater Horizon for a week before it happened, it would be a different story.

  • Simon

    WHQ, that’s a fair point, but to compare apples with apples, you have to overlay two timelines that don’t quite match. Let’s say—because I don’t remember how many days it actually was—that Bush had a week from the first warnings that Katrina was heading for NOLA and could create an emergency situation. And let’s say—because again, I don’t remember how many days it actually was—Team Fed was in action within a week of landfall. On those stipulations, Bush can be blamed for two weeks lethargy, tops. What was Obama doing one week after DH exploded? What was he doing two weeks after it exploded? We’re now five weeks in and the administration still seems minimally engaged. Would it not have been a very, very different story had Bush done nothing for five weeks?

  • WHQ

    If the fact that there is a real or perceived lack of appropriate response in the case of the current oil disaster on the part of the president is all that is necessary to make Katrina an apt analogy, well, then I guess it’s an apt analogy.

    But, in addition to the difference of a well-known forecast for Katrina, the federal government also had the ability to respond directly with its own resources and expertise. I can agree that Obama’s response may be lacking, but that doesn’t mean that whatever maximal response he could muster wouldn’t still be insufficient for addressing the disaster at hand.

    Given these entirely different aspects of the current disaster relative to Katrina, I’d say the analogy isn’t very apt, regardless of how generally well-received it may be.

    But the more I think about it, the less I think the analogy matters, anyway. Failure, perceived or otherwise, is bad mojo for the prez, regardless of whether or not it’s Katrina-like. Even if Katrina had never happened and was not an available analogy, Obama was going to suffer politically for this to more or less the same degree.

  • Nick Benjamin

    I don’t blame Obama for this because there isn’t much more he could be doing. As this thread proves. Simon wants him to talk the Norwegians. Imagine that. The right wants us to ask those Socialists in Norway (and the current Norwegian government is a member of the Socialist International, and was briefly a member of the Cominterm) what they’d do. They have no idea what to actually do, but they’re pretty sure we could be doing something. And if Obama would just get on the phone with those Norwegian Socialists everything would be fine. Guys, the Norwegians are not sociopaths. They’re actually fairly nice. If they had any ideas, whatsoever, they’d call us.

    I doubt he’ll suffer much for it electorally. The people who don’t hate him don’t know what he should be doing, so they won’t blame him for not doing it. The people who do hate him were gonna vote against him anyway.

    He’ll lose news cycles until this August, when those relief wells start working, which isn’t good. But the media tends to over-estimate it’s own importance. And the election’s in November.

    IMO the Katrina comparison isn’t apt because it was obvious what Bush could have done. We have multiple hurricanes every year. The procedure for dealing with them is well known. Bush knew a big-ass storm was gonna hit New Orleans, and should have been prepared for it to overcome the levees. He had an entire government department (FEMA) designed for precisely this eventuality. And he blew it.

    That’s a bit different from Simon’s criticism that Obama should be on TV more (so it looks like he’s taking this seriously), and should be on a big-ass conference call to figure out what to do.

  • Chris

    that and thousands of people haven’t died directly because of the oil leak, and there’s not 100k people camped out in a sports arena for two weeks without food, water, or toilets because of the oil leak.

  • gerryf

    Katrina was not preventable; BP likely was. Both responses stink.

    While we engage in these pointless “my president is better than your president was” or “my president wasn’t as bad as your president is” the gulf continues to be poisened by oil spilling into it by a company that had a known and horrible safety and environmental track record.

    Our current situation has nothing to with either President being engaged or not, Monday morning QB disaster response, or anything else. This is mindless talking head chatter.

    This is the end result of 30+ years of eviscerating government to the point where it cannot respond. There has been a systematic reducation in taxes to the point where even basic operations require masive debt, cuts to departments that once provided oversight, deregulation, privatization, and finally the outright suboardination of government to the whims of corporation through lobbying and cash-dependent politicians.

    It’s not a Republican issue or Democrat issue other than to say they use these issues to bludgeon each other so the winner can take control and be on the receiving end of the corporate largesse.

    I had some hope for Obama, not because he was a Democrat, but because his campaign was greatly driven by a grass roots campaign funded by smaller contributions that might make him less beholden to the real problem. Looks like I was wrong.

    Even if Obama personally wants to do something (and I am not saying he does beyond any base “this is bad for my administration”), our federal government lacks the political will and resources to do much more than send troops off to other countries to enforce some foreign policy that is likely more in line with corporate profits than providing “for the common defense.”

    Face it folks–our federal government has been reduced to little more than a “rent a cop.”

  • mdgeorge

    Thanks for your view simon. I think I personally agree more with WHQ and Chris that there was much more that could have been done in katrina and not much more that could have been done here, but I can see where you’re coming from too.

  • blackout

    Agreed that perception is the issue here. Disagree that anyone here can claim to know everything that Obama has, or has not, been doing to address the crisis. Hilariously naked ideology from your quarter as always, Simon.

    Captcha: conned by

  • WHQ

    Disagree that anyone here can claim to know everything that Obama has, or has not, been doing to address the crisis.

    We can’t know with absolute certainty. But I don’t see why Obama wouldn’t be letting everyone know at every chance that he did something to address this crisis. Why would he hold back, other than for having tried something ridiculous and embarrassing, in which case he could still be legitimately criticized anyway?

  • Nick Benjamin

    At this point I don’t think there’s much he could try that would be embarrassing. People just want the problem solved, so if he concocted a ridiculous plan justified with equally ridiculous spin he’d probably get away with it.

  • the Word

    @Nick – Maybe he should reinvade Iraq.

  • Chris

    Inventing a more punishable enemy than BP would certainly help. But really he just needs to get pissed at them. Really, he could just give a speech, look at the ceo and say “hey f*** you guy” and then tear down one of the dude’s mansions.

    america would be satisfied.

  • WHQ

    He could sieze all of BP’s American assets, sell them off to the highest bidder and send everyone in southern Louisiana a check from the proceeds.

  • Simon


    He could sieze all of BP’s American assets

    Setting aside what that does to BP’s incentives, on what authority could he do so?

  • blackout

    Piggybacking The Word’s suggestion, I’d just invade BP.

  • Lee Thomas

    I actually have a different take. I believe that the president comes out way ahead in the end on this. The MSM and the White House have embarked upon engagement in which they are going to demonize the oil and gas industry and corporations in general as evil and to deflect the blame to them rather then to the president.

    Again I have maintained this is not his fault.

    However if you combine a successful demonization of corporations with unemployment numbers that are going to steadily increase over the coming months I see this as a positive for both the President and the Democrats in general.

    While this spill is horrible for the gulf coast and others yet to see the effects, this is actually good news for the Democrats and Obama politically. With the help of the MSM and bloggers they will effectively spin this into a positive and mark my words, both congress and Obama will see a bump in their numbers in the coming weeks ahead.

  • gerryf


    Harry Truman seized the steel industry in 1952 with an executive order. The Supreme Court ulitmately ruled it unconstitutional, but that could take months.

    Some argue the clean water act allows it, as well.

    Either way, it would be political suicide.

  • WHQ

    Simon, that was a joke. Sometimes I kid.

  • Simon

    Gerry, I’m familiar with Youngstown, and as you say, the court ruled that the seizure was unconstitutional. Moreover, if the goal is to obtain the assets (vs. punishing BP), unlike the mill seizure, it’s far from clear that such a seizure would avail the government anything. Expertise, not matériel, is the most urgently-needed commodity.

    You say that “[s]ome argue the clean water act allows [the President to seize all of BP’s American assets].” I’d like to know where they are getting that idea. I’m not aware of any seizure provisions in CWA, and so far as I know, the only seizures authorized in any circumstances by Title 33 as a whole apply to vessels only.

    WHQ, fair ’nuff.

  • Chris

    Lee, I think you over-estimate the liberalness of our president.

  • kranky kritter

    @Chris, re overestimated liberalness

    In my estimation, liberals as a group seem to be pretty disappointed that Obama is not nearly as liberal as they had hoped or expected or wanted or whatever. [I predicted this, BTW, but it wwas an easy call, so no credit accrues.]

    OTOH, conservatives as a group seem to find Obama to be at least as liberal as they feared, if not more. In other words, I think most conservatives would claim that by and large their worst fears have been realized to a substantial extent, although maybe not in areas where Obama hasn’t done much. To which conservatives would undoubtedly add, “give him time.”

    And on the third hand, I think a majority of moderates (and maybe independents, maybe not) would say that he has by and large slotted pretty close to what they expected.

    In sum, liberals think he’s too conservative, conservatives think he’s too liberal, and moderates think he’s just about right. IMO, that makes Obama a moderate. Of course, that’s unlikely to budge any liberals _or_ any conservatives. Because liberals routinely think moderates are conservative tools, and conservatives routinely think moderates are liberal tools.

    BTW, not trying to bait or antagonize you Chris. Just observing what it looks like from the middle.

  • Chris

    I don’t think he’s a conservative tool, I just don’t think he’s a “liberal”.

  • kranky kritter

    Oh no. not putting words in your mouth at all, just speaking generally.

    Has Lee said s/he’s a liberal? In general, I tend to put more credence in whatever group a person self-identifies with than someone else’s litmus test

  • Chris

    “The MSM and the White House have embarked upon engagement in which they are going to demonize the oil and gas industry and corporations in general as evil ” -Lee

    That would be a liberal agenda, one that I agree with for the most part. But this isn’t Obama’s agenda at all.

  • kranky kritter

    Not sure where in there Lee said s/he’s liberal.

    I think Obama himself would be quite dumb to place himself in the forefront of the supposed demonization effort. Like a smart President, he can let democrats in congress and behind-the-scenes admin henchcritters do any such work.

    It’s pretty easy to forecast that Obama himself will make temperate statements about corporations, good corporate citizenship, the economy, and how business stirs the drink.

    Congress will probably toss in a few especially awful lefty ideas for Obama to “take out” and show “bipartisanship” during debate and negotiation. And then he’ll sign whatever business and regulatory reform congress passes. That’s how it’ll be played. And as Lee suggests, it’ll lead to a bump for democrats.

    If you recall, I predicted back in winter during the HCR debate that Democrats would tackle business/finance/regulatory reform this summer. And that this would lead to a real rebound from the lows seen when the admin used its popularity capital on HCR.

  • Chris

    KK I never meant/said that Lee is a liberal, but that s/he is saying that Obama is.

  • Bobbi Jones

    Not much of a Obama fan myself… but Bush was cruficied for Katrina and for failure to respond in time. While the BP spill might have been prevented or not, one should be accountable or at least made accountable for all such disasters (natural or man made) because of the consequences that arise later on.

    Unfortunately everything is about ratings these days and one can expect both sides to spin this into a PR campaign to garner the most mileage.

  • Bob Homes

    Haha, nice cartoon. However, I don’t think the BP spill will really jeopardize Obama’s bid for re-election. It was totally BP’s fault, and they were even in charge of the cleanup operation. I don’t think Obama’s got any oil on his face on this one.

  • Mike

    I always find that cartoons like this stimulate discussion much more than 20 lines of pure text. Now that the oil spill is distant memory and the recent death of Bin Laden, has the perception of Obama changed at all?

  • Jon D.

    Katrina vs. BP spill with respect to President responsibility (or partial responsibility) are 2 different matters altogether. Katrina was a natural disaster that couldn’t be prevented, but there was some warning. The response was lacking. There was no agent that could stop it, but the government had a mandate to protect citizens.

    The BP spill was under the control of a private corporation. Perhaps regulatory checks failed, and it is the government’s responsibility to investigate post-incident and to then make appropriate regulatory changes to prevent such a disaster in the future. But, given the climate in America to not meddle with private matters, there wasn’t much the government could do to prevent it.

    Since it’s a natural disaster vs. privately caused disaster, the response to a natural disaster falls on the government while a private disaster must fall on the shoulders of the agent who caused the incident (i.e. BP).

  • Richard

    Great image … as a Brit I was wondering what the current opinion of Obama is at the moment, he was treated like royalty on his last visit over here, but I wasn’t inspired by his main speech …

  • Ian Jones

    I was wondering the same thing Richard- it’s always interesting to see how the public perception of politicians varies between countries. I’d agree that Obama has managed to retain his respected and esteemed status here in the UK, and it’s intriguing that this is not the case in the states. In my opinion something of a fall from grace was always inevitable for Obama however. Anybody entering office amidst such high expectation automatically faces a huge challenge and vast amounts of pressure and it appears that Obama may have fallen victim to this in the US. I am not saying that every decision he has made has been the best one, just that the negative aspects of his term in office may have been focussed on disproportionately.

  • Jake Ryer

    I have to agree with Ian. Obama is still considered, as they used to say in the old days “the cats meow” here in India, even though people aren’t as excited about him as they were when he first entered office. I always hear republican’s complaining about the “liberal Media”, but I personally don’t think they spared Obama, even though he considered extremely liberal by many.