News reports today on the oil spill in the Gulf have centered on the president’s crude remarks that he was looking for an “a** to kick.” But what has been largely unreported is the fact that President Obama has not spoken with BP CEO Tony Hayward one single time since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April. Not once.
Speaking to the BBC, Hayward said: “There is no need for that…I have spoken to his key lieutenants.”
Whether Hayward sees a need for this conversation is immaterial. Just yesterday, Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer that he would fire Hayward if under his employ, for the obtuse remarks the CEO recently made about wanting his life back. Obama has made vilifying BP’s corporate leadership a centerpiece of his oil spill response, and yet, not once has the president felt the need to directly address the chief executive officer of the company responsible for the Gulf disaster and for capping the leak?
There are a few potential reasons for this lack of communication. The president may feel that communication with BP is better delegated. However, even in the best of circumstances, a good delegator has to be engaged at the executive level. Or, Obama may be so angry with BP for hijacking his 2010 agenda that frustration alone is keeping him from calling. Over the past week, Obama has acted like a staged bully to give the media the frustration they’ve been clamoring for. But the silent treatment over the past seven weeks may be more indicative of his anger than any vulgarities.
And then there is perception. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the president was the largest single recipient of campaign contributions from BP and its employees over the past twenty years. The left has fruitlessly tried to pin the fault of this catastrophe on a “cozy” relationship between oil companies and the Bush administration, while the president has done his best to distance himself from earning a similar rebuke from his own side.
But every possible reason is merely speculation. The fact is that we don’t know why the president has chosen not to speak with anyone at BP, about anything.
Steven Cuevas, a former senior official at the U.S. Energy Department, told Heritage that Obama could have brought Hayward into the Oval Office for an official rebuke and then “issued a statement that the President was direct and curt in telling Hayward his expectations.” Cuevas asks: “Wouldn’t that have made him look ‘in command’?” It certainly could have gone a long way towards making the president appear more in control of the crisis than is currently the case.
The president has faced criticism from across the political spectrum for hosting a multitude of rock concerts at the White House, going on vacation, golfing, and entertaining Bono, Marv Albert and sports teams, rather than maintaining focus on the Gulf emergency. This lack of communication between the two executives in charge of the recovery effort adds fuel to the fire that the president simply has better things to do, like hanging out with entertainers and athletes.
The oil spill is possibly the largest environmental disaster to ever face our nation. The costs of the clean-up are BP’s responsibility but the oversight belongs to the federal government. It will take months, if not years, to fully recover. Congress will be hosting Mr. Hayward on Capitol Hill next week for hearings. Maybe the president should swing by and introduce himself.