Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama/BP showdown today

By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network


President Obama meets with BP officials Wednesday for what a former boss of mine would describe as a "come to Jesus meeting." But while a hard-line approach by the president may play well with the public, is it really the right thing to do?

Opinion polls indicate that the president has clearly suffered as the result of his handling the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Detractors have gone so far as to suggest that he was not only slow off the mark to respond - but - at least initially - fumbled the ball.

It's possible that his several-day trip to the region - and last night's prime time address to the nation about the spill - serves to change that perception. So too might his harsh commentary toward BP. So harsh that he was forced to remind the British government that BP stands for British Petroleum - not the British People.

But let's face facts here.

The president needs BP's cooperation. As he himself has so correctly pointed out - the U.S. government lacks the expertise and the experience to deal with this disaster.

Further alienating BP can only prove counterproductive.

Yes, of course, BP needs to be taken to task. And the repair and cleanup effort needs to be watch-dogged better than was the drilling operation that went so bad. But the time for recrimination and threats can wait.

Of course there will be lawsuits and lawful demands for compensation. Everyone, most of all BP, knows this. But now, the focus should be on cooperation - and stopping the leak. Then cleaning up the mess. And only then attempts at retribution.

Like it or not, BP and the government have to be partners during this phase of the crisis. They can become full fledged combatants later.

When he ran for office, President Obama pledged better diplomacy with the nations of the world than was evidenced during George W. Bush's administration. It's time, Mr. President, to put some of that diplomacy to work.

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