Roundtable on the Oil Spill Blame Game

Roundtable on the Oil Spill Blame Game

By Special Report With Bret Baier - May 24, 2010


KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: This is a BP mess, a horrible mess. It is a massive environmental mess. The accountability here as the investigations unfold will hold them accountable both civilly and in whatever way is necessary.

DOUG SUTTLES, BP CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: We have been at this for more than a month. We have been applying the very best engineering and science we actually know. And clearly, some of the things we've done haven't worked.


SHANNON BREAM, GUEST HOST: Let's bring in the panel to talk about it, Tucker Carlson, editor of, Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Welcome, everybody.

All right, Charles, you want to start us off tonight and talk about the back and forth about who is responsible and who is going to be in charge?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I should start by admitting I have a bit of a head cold, but as far as I can tell it hasn't affected my brain. I'll let you be the judge of that.

You have the reality and then the politics. The reality is we have never had a leak at this depth. It's a mile down, it's never happened before. And everything that is being done is experimental.

There are a lot of attacks on BP, obviously, for the blowout and also for the administration, the waving of the permitting and all of that that preceded it.

But once it already happened, I can't imagine why BP would not be doing - it is doing everything it can. It's in its interest. It will lose billions as a result of this, losing its reputation and could lose its very existence. Of course it's trying to stop it. But this is new technology.

And when Salazar said earlier, I think over the weekend, if BP won't stop this, we're going to push them out of way, well, the admiral - it has affected my brain, apparently - Admiral Allen, who's head of the coast guard, said if you push them out of way, who is left? There is nobody who has the expertise and assets to do this.

And I think that's right. We're joined at the hip.

The politics of it, however, Obama will get the blame as it continues. We imagine the president as superman and he should stop all bad things that are happening. And the president hasn't helped that. Remember when he was nominated he said his success to the presidency would mark the day in which the earth began to heal and the oceans recede.

When you anoint yourself King Neptune, you can't be surprised when the people expect you to command the tides. Obviously, he can't.

BREAM: And Mara, we are just getting word across the wires U.S. Commerce Secretary Block is declaring fishing disaster areas for Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi. Is it pressure for the administration to step up?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I think the administration wants to look like it is doing everything it can, even though, as Charles just explained, there is a limit to what they can do, because as Commandant Allen explains over and over again, the federal government doesn't have the machines or expertise.

For better or for worse they are stuck with BP as a partner at least in terms of capping the spill. There is a lot the federal government can do to organize the cleanup and prevent the oil coming to the water.

But it's interesting, since 1990, when a law was passed in response to a big 13i spill, the Exxon Valdez, that was a spill coming out of a ship. And apparently the federal government has a lot of plans and resources to deal with oil coming from a ship. They haven't had anything like this.

We're always fighting the last war. And they don't have the expertise or equipment to cap this off.

I think part of the confusion has been that you have Secretary Salazar out there over the weekend suggesting that the federal government could step in. But in fact it can't. And I think that was part of the problem that the White House tried to correct today by having Allen in the White House briefing room.

BREAM: Tucker, we continue to hear the ratcheting up of BP, the foot on the throat, and tough talk continues to ratchet up.

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: Execution is coming soon. You're right. You're hearing at a time when the White House could be spending its time trying to organize the cleanup, a lot of time and effort blaming BP.

By the way, they are responsible. They are responsible fundamentally for the spill. But the White House is concerned because there have been attacks from the left on its passive behavior. Chris Matthews saying on television he is concerned they're not taking control of the situation.

In part, those criticisms I think are rooted in something. David Axelrod saying today we assembled a team to assess how big the leak is. That is 34 days after. They waited, and so they face real political peril in this.

BREAM: I want to ask all three of you quickly, you mentioned Admiral Thad Allen. He has a special appointment now and will step down as commandant of the Coast Guard to be an incident commander and continue on there.

We heard a lot from him in the White House briefing today. He is very plain-spoken and seems like he will tell you as it is. What do you make of him?

KRAUTHAMMER: I watched the whole show and I was really impressed. He knew what he was talking about. He used a lot of jargon, which I found extremely impressive, stuff I never heard of.

He obviously understands the engineering and the physics of this and he explained the alternatives and he was speaking as a guy who wanted to stop it rather than make political points. I thought the way he sort of subtly put down Salazar implying the federal government could go it alone was absolutely appropriate.

LIASSON: One of the recurring themes with the administration is they don't have a lot of great surrogates. They have the president, who often is just left to do everything by himself, but in this case they have a great surrogate, and they should use him as much as possible.

He was completely non-defensive. He said it like it is. He didn't seem to be shy about differing from another administration official. I thought he showed a lot of command and authority. I think he is a good surrogate.

CARLSON: I agree, because he made the point. This may be a political problem for the White House, but fundamentally an engineering challenge. And as he pointed out, BP is best situated to meet the challenge. That's just true. There's no argument with that.


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