When did American leaders forget the meaning of friendship?

Over the last 198 years, the United Kingdom’s faithfulness as an ally has proved invaluable, but as the Obama administration spins street-tough rhetoric– turning the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe into a BP blame game–the British people are asking themselves just what friendship with the United States is actually worth.

Lost in the talk of dripping pelicans and destroyed businesses looms another devastating tragedy, threatening the livelihood and future of the working class in the U.K., and the deepest of diplomatic ties. While President Obama may not be able to singlehandly stop the oil spill, his reckless words and cowboy-like rhetoric have undermined the financial security of, not evil corporations, but millions of British (and American middle-class workers) and their hopes for avoiding bankruptcy in their old age.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the White House have made it clear that they feel it is the government’s job to, “keep their boot on the throat of BP,” but what those same people seem to be incapable of understanding is that all the political posturing does little clean up the oil leaking into the Gulf, and much to destroy a business that is a pillar of the British Economy and employs 29,000 Americans.

Mark Dampier, of the financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown was quoted in the Telegraph last week noting,

“[Mr Obama] is playing to the gallery but is not bringing a solution any closer. Obama has his boot on the throat of British pensioners. There is no point in bashing BP all the time, it’s not helpful. It is a terrible situation, but having the American president on your back is not going to get it all cleared up any quicker.”

For a president touted for his rational and cerebral approach to politics, President Obama has shown a startling lack of perspicuity and intelligence in how the Deepwater Horizon spill has been handled. Whether persistently insisting on referring to BP by its long-since retired name, “British Petroleum,” or switching his position on who is actually responsible for the spill (remember “I take full responsibility/the buck stops with me”? to blaming Republicans) President Obama seems unable to grasp the intricacies of internal administration and nuances of foreign diplomacy, and exasperating the patience of the U.K. and the new Cameron administration.

“The “boot on the throat” remark however, was beyond the pale, and symbolic of an arrogant, imperial-style presidency with a track record of disdain for US allies, as well as the private sector in general.” Niles Gardner, the Telegraph

These remarks come in line with the Obama administration’s inability to distinguish between allies and opposition, calling Chavez, “mi amigo” and coddling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while leaving long-term allies in the U.K. and Israel frustrated.

The more that comes about the spill, the less that the “blame big oil” narrative makes sense. No sensible person on either side of the Atlantic would suggest that BP shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions, but the Obama administration deserves the lowest marks for their reaction to the spill.

In “The Spill, the Scandal and the President,” Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson rips away the curtain on the spill, exposing the flaws existing in the Mineral Management Services (MMS), and ones that the Obama administration blithely furthered.

“Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency’s culture of corruption. He permitted it to rubber-stamp dangerous drilling operations by BP – a firm with the worst safety record of any oil company – with virtually no environmental safeguards, using industry-friendly regulations drafted during the Bush years. He calibrated his response to the Gulf spill based on flawed and misleading estimates from BP – and then deployed his top aides to lowball the flow rate at a laughable 5,000 barrels a day, long after the best science made clear this catastrophe would eclipse the Exxon Valdez”

The Bush administration carries their own guilt for some of the corruption in the MMS, but, contrary to the White House’s blame shifting and MSNBC’s attempts to label this “Cheney’s Katrina,” the ultimate verdict is leveled squarely at the Obama administration.

“On April 6th of last year, less than a month after BP submitted its application, MMS gave the oil giant the go-ahead to drill in the Gulf without a comprehensive environmental review. The one-page approval put no restrictions on BP, issuing only a mild suggestion that would prove prescient: “Exercise caution while drilling due to indications of shallow gas.”

In the midst of the incompetence of the Obama administration, there also exists a terrifying arrogance towards other nations. By May 6, 13 entities had offered assistance in cleaning up the spill; Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations.

Those offers were refused.

This came from the man who was supposed to lead the way in civil dialogue and diplomacy with other nations. Whatever legal troubles might have existed with the Jones Act and U.S. waters could have easily been trumped by an order from an executive who was acting in his proper “energetic” sense. But while President Obama has no trouble acting to call a beer summit in a local dispute, pushing for a short-sighted “Cash for Clunkers” program, or picking his favorite to win the NCAA tournament/Super Bowl/(insert next ESPN spot here), he seems confused over how to handle such a “complicated” situation.

My colleague Seth Leibsohn made the point this morning on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America that, while President Bush was hammered for his handling of Katrina, President Obama has shown a startling lack of urgency in his daily priorities.

“What is there to say about President Obama’s response here.  Well, for starters, yesterday, he went golfing for four hours.  Golfing for four hours.  If we had a conservative Michael Moore, that would be in a documentary, or a mockumentary–just as President Bush was made great sport of for golfing in Fahrenheit 9-11.  (It went without much notice that the President stopped golfing in 2003, two years into his term as president).  This was President Obama’s 38th golf game since becoming president–at least.  He’s gone golfing over eight times as often as President Bush did in as many years.”

There is no minimizing the devastation of this oil spill. Being born and raised an hour from the beaches of Gulfport, MS., it is heartbreaking to watch the sludge-soaked images pouring from the South and know that the homes and jobs of my friends and family will never be the same. A month ago, friends could smell the oil wafting in with the ocean tides, now all they have to do is open their eyes and reach out their hands. 

Nations look to their leader in times of tragedy. Lincoln gave a two minute speech in a graveyard, Roosevelt comforted us on a day of infamy, and President Bush climbed on a pile of wreckage. The president sets the tone for the response, but in the days following the burst in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama seems unable to make up his own mind.

True leadership involves not just inspiration around an esoteric idea, but the courage to act wisely in crisis and lead towards a practical future.

It also means that, whether it’s Israel, the United Kingdom, or protestors in Iran, you don’t turn your back on your friends to shake hands with the enemy.

About The Author

Nathan Martin

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