06/16/2010 10:17 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So Now What?

Last night, President Obama gave his first Oval Office speech to address the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico just hours after a new government report that BP's blowout well is now estimated to be flowing as much as 60,000 barrels of oil per day, or the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez running aground 50 miles offshore Louisiana every 4 days.  Yes, every 4 days, even after 58 days of uncontrolled flow.  The President is facing a crisis of confidence in the federal government due to its inadequate response while this monster continues to roar into the Gulf.  Meanwhile, BP, the foreign corporation who's fouling our waters and rope-a-doping critical information, is still thumbing its nose at the US from its plush offices in London while trying to placate its own shareholders.

The speech, while up to Obama's oratorial standard, fell short of what I think we all needed to hear.  What he should have communicated was that the US government was taking over protecting our own shores, shoving BP out of the way and militarizing the response.  While he did finally call on the Gulf state governors to activate its National Guard units for the response, he fell short of centralizing clean-up authority under the Coast Guard or any military command.  Frankly, I'm sick of us allowing a foreign corporation, who's guilty of fouling our waters and killing 11 good men, to order Americans around in a lame effort to clean up the mess it's made.  Even more infuriating, there are more and more reports now of BP hiding evidence of dead wildlife, restricting access of Americans to American beaches, giving gag orders to American employees, and the Coast Guard's enabling of this unacceptable behavior.

While assuring us that BP will pay for this clean-up, the President gave no real details on how he plans on accomplishing that.  Hopefully, his meeting with BP's big cheese(s) in the White House today will bring some result, but I'm not holding my breath.  While saying that he won't accept inaction, he didn't really enumerate any action he's going to actually take besides pillorying BP (who mightily deserves it).  He did name another new study to reclaim the Gulf Coast, but gave no real goals, objectives, or timeline.  He proposed no new legislation or energy policy, gave no directives to Congress for action.  It was a pep talk, and nothing really more.

The President needs to fight this on two fronts; what to do now, and what to do with policy.  First, he needs to establish clear command and control in two areas; well control and surface response.  As I've talked about previously, BP should be removed as operator of the well and the Get the Well Killed Committee formed, under chairmanship of Interior or the Coast Guard.  They should be tasked with kill and oil recovery operations.  Second, as mentioned above, he should also militarize the surface response immediately and send BP home (after lifting their wallet).