Thursday, October 07, 2010

We Are Neither Suprised ...

... nor amused.

One of the changes promised by candidate Barack Obama was a return to transparency in government. His White House, however, hasn't shown much in that regard. The latest evidence of the opacity comes in a rather startling McClatchy DC article posted yesterday.

Government scientists wanted to tell Americans early on how bad the BP oil spill could get, but the White House denied their request to make the worst-case models public, a report by the staff of the national panel investigating the spill said Wednesday.

White House officials denied that they tried to suppress the information.

The allegation was made by unnamed government officials cited in a staff working paper released Wednesday by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Although not a final report, it could raise questions over whether the Obama administration tried to minimize the extent of the BP oil spill, the worst man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), tasked "to coordinate and review all interagency materials developed in response to the BP oil spill," denied a request to present the worst case scenario as part of a modeling analysis. OMB staff indicated that the denial was based on scientific factors, not public relations.

Yeah, and I'm the Queen of Romania.

The government knew from the start what the worst case scenario was: BP itself listed a potential for 162,000 barrels a day in its drilling permit, yet that figure was withheld during the early weeks of the spill. Instead, the government went along with BP's estimates of 1,000-5,000 per day and little was done early on to force more dramatic action in containing the spill. It was only when it became patently obvious that the spill rate far exceeded the BP figures that the White House started paying attention to the tragedy unfolding.

The staff paper said that underestimating the flow rates "undermined public confidence in the federal government's response" by creating the impression that the government was either incompetent or untrustworthy. The paper said that the loss of trust "fuels public fears." [Emphasis added]

You think maybe?

The whole episode reminds me of the last Gulf tragedy when another president rose to the occasion by stating, "Heckuva job, Brownie."

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