06/29/2010 12:05 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

GOP Can't Decide How to Attack Obama Over Oil Spill Response

In wide-ranging interview published today by the conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, House Minority Leader John Boehner told the paper's editors that President Obama had 'overreacted' to the still-gushing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:

Boehner said Obama overreacted to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill might warrant a "pause" in deepwater drilling, but Obama's blanket ban on drilling in the gulf -- which a judge overturned last week -- could devastate the region's economy, he said.

This is a change in tune from the GOP's previous line of attack -- claiming the President did not respond to the disaster quickly and forcefully enough. Here are some statements John Boehner and his top deputies in the House have made to that effect in recent weeks:

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), May 27th:

"Even now, nearly two months after disaster first struck, the federal response remains inadequate and disorganized. Americans are rightly angry about this failure of government, and they want to know that their president is focused squarely on stopping this leak, cleaning up this mess, and finding out what went wrong."

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), May 27th:

Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) told reporters Thursday "under the law that the president has a responsibility to act and it's also clear that the president has failed in his obligation to the American people to uphold the law and act."

Boehner provided few details to defend the charge that the president was shirking his duties but pointed to a speech given by his colleague, Rep. Steve Scalise (R) of Louisiana.

The top-ranking House Republican says that President Barack Obama "has failed" his legal duty to act over the last month during the ongoing BP oil spill.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), June 15th:

In a statement Tuesday, powerful Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor reminded Obama that Gulf region residents have "been searching for hope and leadership for 57 days" since the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast.

"People have watched as oil continues to spill into the Gulf and wonder why this crisis has not been fixed," added Cantor, the Republican Whip in the U.S. House of Representatives. "They've been frustrated but patient, and they deserve accountability."

Republican Conference Chair Mike Pence (R-IN), May 5th:

A top House Republican on Wednesday slammed President Barack Obama's response to a massive oil spill as too slow, saying that "people in the Gulf of Mexico deserve better."


"The American people want answers," Pence said following a House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol. "The American people know this was a slow response."

Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), May 27th:

Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) relayed a story Thursday morning at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast bolstering House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-Ohio) charge of negligence on the part of the White House in the Gulf oil spill cleanup.

Asked if this was the president's Hurricane Katrina, McCarthy responded, "It very well could be."

The only consistencies between these statements and Minority Leader Boehner's latest remarks are that they are nonsensical and highly critical. It is clear that the GOP's only response to the spill (or to anything, really) is to criticize President Obama. What remains to be seen is which of these attacks they'll settle on. They can't very well simultaneously claim that he is both overreacting and not reacting quickly enough. Then again, John Boehner and his fellow House Republicans aren't exactly known for credibility and consistency.

Update -- The paper's use of the word overreact appears to have been misleading. Here is the relevant part of the transcript (via email):

Q: Was the six month moratorium a good idea?

Boehner: I don't think so. They're going to cause real havoc down there. The deepwater drilling, maybe there's a reason there to pause until we know what happened and we can make sure we can prevent it. But all of the other drilling that's gone on down there in the more shallow waters, there's no reason to have this moratorium. And if they keep this moratorium intact, all these big rigs are going to go elsewhere around the world and we're going to put tens of thousands of residents along the gulf coast out of a job.