07/31/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Oil of Delay: McCain Cancels Louisiana Trip After Barge Spill


Senator John McCain canceled his trip to visit Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal as almost half a million gallons of crude oil began to coat the Mississippi River. The McCain campaign barely avoided stepping on a campaign banana peel, or oil slick as it were, reportedly planning a Gulf Coast oil rig photo op as a 30 mile stretch of Mississippi was shut down from a barge split in two by a tanker last night.

The stench of industrial grade oil fills the air through the French Quarter, and New Orleans residents have been asked to conserve water until the cleanup is completed. Two barge halves, bow and stern, are now poking out of the river as tugboats hold them in position. Almost 80 miles are now covered by the spill, no one knows for how long, and the oil is floating down to our already endangered wetlands. In a example of the timing that has gob smacked the McCain campaign, the Times Picayune's reports that McCain had been planning to visit an offshore rig on this New Orleans junket. It's not the image a presidential candidate wants in the middle of an environmental nightmare.

2008-07-23-Bird.pngThe big break the campaign received is cable news covering Hurricane Dolly all day with no mention of McCain's slick cancellation. The weather was briefly mentioned as cause of the junket's postponement.

It did rain this morning in New Orleans, so the oil congealed faster than it would have, but cleanup will still be difficult. With water intakes closed, having fresh drinking water may become a problem as the spill slowly moves downriver. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans suffered close to 400 oil spills across the metro area so the city has more experience in environmental cleanup than any city should have to suffer through.

Notwithstanding Senator Mitch McConnell's view of the prettiness of oil rigs, there's nothing pretty about oil floating out to meet the oil being pumped from the rig McCain stands on to promote pumping more American oil. The 420,000 gallons of crude oil floating on the water right now are highly flammable, so it would have been a precarious photo op across the board.

2008-07-23-boat.pngThe candidate's camp now says they will meet with Jindal at a different juncture in part of what Bob Novak, when he's not busy driving into people, admitted was a VP selection fakeout to pull coverage away from Senator Barack Obama's successful international trip.

In spite of his close call with an oily landing, McCain is still pushing to drill offshore in Florida, the West Coast and the East Coast. It would be no surprise if he flipped on ANWR, too. But don't expect an oil rig photo op until the candidate is sure our new New Orleans spill gets no national coverage at all.

McCain recently told a town hall meeting he would rather lose a campaign than lose a war.

The question here in New Orleans is clear: would the candidate rather lose our coastline than lose another gallon of gas?