Panel on Obama's Spill Response

Panel on Obama's Spill Response

By Special Report With Bret Baier - June 1, 2010


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If our laws were broken leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is we'll bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Our environmental laws are very clear. And we have a responsibility to enforce them, and we will do so. At the same time, we're mindful of the government's first priority, and that priority is to stop the spill and to clean up the oil.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Well, the attorney general said he is opening up criminal and civil investigations of the oil spill. As you look live right now, the robot operated by submarines cutting a diagonal cut across the pipe down there. BP saying they'll try to place a cap over that with an intense seal and start siphoning out the oil.

It's happening as we're speaking but it could take a number of days. And we don't know if it will increase the amount of oil that is coming up. Some estimates say it could increase by 20 percent, but we just don't know how much is going inTO the Gulf every day definitively.

What about all of this, the politics, the policy, and the reality? Let's bring in our panel, Tucker Carlson, editor of the, Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Tucker, the president speaks about possible criminal consequences. The attorney general goes down there and says the investigation is open. What about that?

TUCKER CARLSON, EDITOR, THEDAILYCALLER.COM: Well, the criticism of this has been that it will distract BP from the more pressing matter, capping the well.

We have a story up on this, this afternoon. Our reporter talked to a bunch of people and came back with the following, which I think sounds about right. They've considered this from day one. BP is not stupid. They know the political climate and the magnitude of what this spill is. They have been expecting they might come under scrutiny from the Justice Department. They've already clammed up and they are watching everything they say and do.

The truth is they could actually face serious charges under a number of laws. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act says if you kill a single migratory bird, even accidentally you are guilty of a crime. They could be charged under that, under the Clean Water Act. This is real. There is absolutely no doubt about it.

It would be politically popular. I think the public will like it. I have to say, it's a little much watching the self-righteousness from the federal government, which is one of the great despoilers of the environment, your average military base is a brown field.

In Washington, D.C., it's true, one EPA building is so contaminated with lead, people don't want to work there. So this is a catastrophe, but pull back a little bit on the self-righteousness, I would say.

BAIER: Juan, what about the politics here as this oil continues to spew and the talk today is of possible criminal or civil charges against an oil company you have to still work with to cap the thing?

JUAN WILLIAMS, NEWS ANALYST, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: That settles what now - a spokesman for BP on this says it won't interfere with what they are doing. I don't know if he felt the necessity to say that and it was simply pro-forma, but that's what he said.

I think that what we have here, though, is an extension of what President Obama said at the news conference Friday, which is for those who think he wasn't on the case right away, they're wrong. They don't know the facts. That he was in fact engaged from the start and if you have any question, he's also enraged.

He has people on the case, they had 1,200 people, I think they've got now 20,000 people down there, that, in fact, if you think about it, he's got a blue ribbon commission set up. He has Admiral Allen now in place as the lead actor on this to keep track of it day-to-day. Elizabeth Birnbaum of the Mineral Management Agency has been fired.

BAIER: If you're going to say that, Juan, if you say that the government was in charge since day one, then you also have to say they were in charge of the decision to use the dispersant that then the government said you shouldn't be using, and didn't know exactly how much oil was pumping into the Gulf from day one?

WILLIAMS: I think that is the logical extension. Their response to this is of course that BP lied to them or misled them, that BP didn't tell them the extent of the leak, which is now the biggest one in U.S. history, bigger than '89 and Exxon Valdez.

But you're exactly right. If they say they were in charge from the start then the question becomes why did you allow BP to continue in this way, which, as we heard from Tucker, was potentially reckless and subject to litigation?

BAIER: Charles, the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said today that the new effort to cap this well is iffy at best. The Associated Press has just said federal officials are hoping to talk to film director James Cameron about ideas on how to stop the oil spill because he's one of the experts. He has had underwater filming and remote vehicle technologies.

Where are we on this if they are talking to James Cameron?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's not surprising. He is the only person that can send Avatar to the sea to plug the well. I'm sure the green people who fly through the air with the greatest of ease could do that as well. I'm sure if you give him enough time, he will get it done. I thought that was an Onion story right there.

BAIER: It's Associated Press."

KRAUTHAMMER: An AP story, and it's becoming bizarre.

And I think what the attorney general did today is somewhat over the line. When the attorney general announces the beginning of a criminal inquiry, you would expect he would announce or at least give some evidence that would lead them to think a crime had been committed or there was some intentionality.

I might have missed it but I didn't hear a syllable about what evidence he has of criminal activity here. It's obvious that the administration wants to give the appearance of activity. And that's what it's doing, running around giving the appearance of working on the criminal element.

It says it's working with BP, giving orders, and in fact it's BP which is doing all the work underwater. It wants to distract attention from the fact that after declaring it's in control and owns the spill that it can't do anything.

And the statement by the Homeland Security secretary is truth. They aren't sure and don't think that the latest effort will succeed. And if so, they have to wait until August and have to have the spill cam on all day long, every day, for another two-and-a-half months.

So they want to make it look like they are doing something, but declaring war on the oil company, at this time, and in a criminal way, I think is really distasteful. It will not help anybody.

BAIER: We talked about this yesterday, Tucker. But the turning point most believe was the press conference, when the president said the buck stops with me.

CARLSON: That's right.

BAIER: Was that the right move then? Is it the right move now if things are still going south on both the oil leak and the clean-up?

CARLSON: There's probably not a lot else they could do. The truth is whether it's reasonable or not, most people expect the federal government is going to solve America's great problems whether it's capable of doing so or not. That's the expectation that generations of Americans have been raised to have.

And the fact is it's fundamentally false. After Katrina, there were no cops on the street. They couldn't even guarantee basic safety or fire function. And to hear they can cap an oil well is ludicrous. But people think they can is the point. The president has to say that.

KRAUTHAMMER: And this president encouraged this sort of messianic metaphysical expectations when as a candidate and as president he speaks about saving the planet, stopping the rise of the oceans.

Like I said before, he ran as the man who would bring weight of government on all problems, health care, environment, et cetera. Now the expectations are catching up with him.

BAIER: Last word, Juan.

WILLIAMS: A lot of people say we want smaller government in the country. But when it comes to a situation like this, you say this is where government should intervene.

But really, the power of government is to call on the best of America in this situation. I don't know if James Cameron qualifies in this department, but, for example, last week the left was infuriated with Obama. And so you had people like James Carville saying we're dying down here. Why don't you get experts from Stanford or Woods Hole to come help?

Maybe people feel that President Obama hasn't had the sense of urgency thus far.


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