Obama Administration Clings to “Mission Accomplished” Claim with Release of New Report


Tell the truth: Did you think the Obama Administration learned its lesson from the “Mission Accomplished” moment when NOAA proudly announced that the “vast majority” of the BP oil was gone? Surely that humiliating exercise in back-pedaling had to be educational, right? Well, think again.

Showing a persistence we can only hope might one day be applied to holding BP accountable, the federal leadership simply continues to push its blue-sky, all-clear messaging. Chris Kirkham of the Times-Picayune reports that “the federal on-scene coordinator, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, and science adviser Steve Lehmann” offer this assessment: “…on-the-water findings that couldn’t have been imagined at the height of the crisis four months ago: very little recoverable oil still in the water or on the bottom, barely even trace amounts of dispersant chemicals and no samples of contaminated seafood in open water or in the marshes.”

You’d expect that sort of irresponsibly rosy report from BP, but coming from our elected officials in Washington, it’s nothing short of appalling. A trampling of the public trust. The Administration even followed the BP messaging strategy of including modifiers that make their statements seem solid and bold but leave plenty of wiggle room. Don’t say the “vast majority” of the oil is gone, just say very little “recoverable” oil is there. Okay, so maybe that layer of slimy oil being reported on the ocean floor is not “recoverable.” You don’t say there are “no dispersants,” you say “barely trace amounts” are being detected while omitting that you’re not actually testing for dispersants.

The bottom line is that, despite public outrage over the enormously premature “Mission Accomplished” announcement, the government continues to deliver the same old all-clear message – albeit on the installment plan.

Play a round of spot-the-spin with the TP story here: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/10/federal_leaders_of_gulf_of_mex.html

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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