Getting BP to cough up a $20 billion escrow fund paid off politically in more ways than one. Plus: Apologize to BP!
Talk about snakebit: Peggy Noonan chose Friday to publish a column writing off President Obama off as an unlucky president, comparing him to Jimmy Carter, just when his presidency has a little spring back in its step. Its title is luscious: “A Snakebit President: Americans want leaders on whom the sun shines.”
The sun seemed to shine on Obama this week. It’s true his Tuesday night speech wasn’t his best, but that’s because it lacked the news he was able to reveal Wednesday: That BP had agreed to create a $20 billion escrow fund to compensate the victims of its Gulf oil disaster, to have it administered by the tough Kenneth Feinberg of the 9/11 fund, and also to put off paying shareholder dividends through the end of the year.
And on Thursday, Obama got relief from the harsh, unnatural media glare in the wake of the disaster, which had landed upon him in the absence of any other visible hero or villain in the mess, when Tony Hayward testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Hayward’s constant insistence that he either didn’t know or couldn’t recall … virtually anything he was asked, finally made clear there is one leader whose lack of preparedness can be blamed for the crisis, and his name is Tony Hayward.
BP announced Friday that Hayward would be replaced as the man in charge of the spill response, though he’ll remain as CEO.
Of course, things got even better for Obama when Rep. Joe Barton apologized to Hayward on Thursday, calling the escrow fund not only a “shakedown” but a “tragedy.” Barton was then forced by a panicky GOP leadership to apologize for his apology, but the damage was done. Besides, from Barton to Michele Bachmann to the Republican Study Group to Rush Limbaugh, most of the party was ready to try out the shakedown, “share the wealth” criticism – until Barton went too far. Even today, Kentucky GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul left his bunker to express sympathy for Barton, and for BP, too (remember, before he entered the witness-protection program, one of Paul’s last utterances was to call Obama ‘s criticism of BP “un-American.”)
Friday the GOP began trying out a new message. They’ve gone from calling Obama a Chicago thug who shakes down business to a guy who had nothing at all to do with BP’s generous concession, but is now trying to claim credit for it. That was fast, even for Republican liars. Obama could still falter in his handling of the BP disaster, because the disaster is going to be with us for a very long time. But the president has mostly quieted critics who weren’t sure he was doing enough on that front, for now.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America." More Joan Walsh.
More Related Stories
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
- In IRS scandal, new GOP tactic is ignorance
- Code Pink activist berates Obama at national security speech
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Pic of the day: Barack Obama at prom
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Obama’s drone speech will probably be maddening
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11