With frustration mounting over the inability to stop the oil spilling into the Gulf, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) on Wednesday became the first senator to explicitly call for the Obama White House to take over operations should immediate response efforts fail.
"If this thing is not fixed today, I think the president doesn't have any choice, and he better go in, completely take over," Nelson said on CNN this morning. "Perhaps with the military in charge, not because the military can do this, but the military has the apparatus, the organization by which it can bring together the civilian agencies of government and to get this thing done."
A fierce skeptic of offshore drilling and one of the most outspoken critics of the response to the current crisis, Nelson's call for military intervention reflects just how heated the debate over the oil spill has become. Briefing reporters in the Senate Press Gallery on Tuesday, the Florida Democrat hinted that he wants the Obama administration to take on a larger role. Speaking to CNN the next morning, he deemed the effort by BP to plug the leak by pumping a thick mud on top of it the company's last chance.
But he didn't end there. "I think the president is gonna have to have [Interior] Secretary Salazar clean house in the Minerals Management Service," he told CNN, "which has had such a cozy, incestuous relationship with the oil industry, and basically let the oil industry rule the roost."
Just two days ago, the Obama White House held a press briefing with Adm. Thad Allen -- the official in charge of coordinated response -- in which they insisted that federalizing operations in the Gulf would have little practical impact.
"To push [the responsible party] BP out of the way would raise the question: Replace them with what?" Allen said.
This, technically, may be true. But as the president continues to entrust BP to clean up the mess, his critics have grown only more aggravated. On Wednesday morning, longtime Democratic strategist James Carville called the administration's response to BP "hands-offy."
"The political stupidity of this is just unbelievable," Carville told ABC's "Good Morning America". "Here you have a situation where you have 11 hardworking people blown up as a result of corporate malfeasance and maybe criminal negligence... and the president doesn't get down here in the middle of this. His approval rating should be up seven points right now if he had come down. I have no idea of why they didn't seize this thing. I have no idea as to why their attitude was so hands-offy here. It is just unbelievable. I hope he seizes it now because very seldom do you get something that is very good politics and the right thing to do -- and that is to get involved here."
Another Democratic strategist and Louisiana native, Donna Brazille, urged people to temper their criticism of Obama. But, via Twitter, even she acknowledged that the president has to get more aggressive in holding BP accountable.
Most Americans would like to see Obama put his boot up BP's behind. And while he's kicking, get the Army Corp off their butts. My two cents.
On a separate but related front, Democrats in the Senate were once again frustrated on Tuesday in their efforts to raise the economic damages liability cap for BP and other oil companies involved in oil spills. A bill introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to make that cap unlimited failed to make it through the chamber by unanimous consent. The senator's office tells the Huffington Post that on Wednesday he filed his legislation as an amendment to the supplemental bill. "The question," the aide said, "is whether or not that can even come up for a vote because it might not be germane to an appropriations measure."