Americans’ understanding of the Deepwater Horizon debacle has evolved quite a bit over the last month since the rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. What was originally written off as an insignificant trickle of negligible volume (and not even publicly announced until two days after it began) is now widely recognized as a catastrophe of near-boundless scope. Even the best efforts of BP to cover-up the reality of what has occurred, among the other corporations with a piece of this action–like Transocean, Hyundai, Halliburton, Nalco, Goldman Sachs and others–have failed to obscure what should now be obvious: Massive environmental destruction is upon us, and this is happening because of the corruption of these companies and the elected officials they’ve bribed into submission.
Even President Obama, who is legally empowered to immediately sweep in and take control of a disaster of this scale, has been looking extremely weak on the issue, as Congress scrambles to obscure their own complicity in allowing BP officials to believe they could flout the conditions of their lease with impunity. It appears, so far, that they were right, but that has been widely documented elsewhere.
Florida’s Attorney General, Bill McCollum, was just one of the public officials to be embarrassed by BP in the early days of the debacle. When McCollum endorsed BP’s efforts at a) cleaning up the spill, and b) fairly compensating Floridians who stand to lose billions, he did so based on a conference call with AGs from Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi and cursory tour of the site. He was probably unaware, at the time, that BP was actively covering their own asses as he spoke; they made him look like he’d been paid off, which surely rankled.
McCollum has long been known as one of those pols who is always looking to move up. Barely an electoral cycle goes by without McCollum standing for some spot or other; he forfeited a very successful 20-year career in the House of Representatives to run, unsuccessfully, for the Senate seat won by Bill Nelson in 2000; four years later, he failed to win the seat won by Mel Martinez. As AG, he succeeded the much-maligned yet remarkably resilient Charlie Crist, who’s spent all year running for the Senate and has shown almost no tangible leadership during what should be a career-defining moment. Crist is certainly no Bobby Jindal–but Jindal, being an eyewitness to the post-Katrina fallout that tanked a number of political careers in his state, knows better than be project weakness (or, worse, distraction) in a crisis.
Of course, like his boss McCollum is also trying to do one job while running for another–Governor, again, this time against Florida CFO Alex Sink. His early, stupid endorsement of BP could have ended those aspirations, if our whole political system weren’t already greasy from BP’s largess. He has since reversed himself, in the grand Florida tradition, taking a position more like his original one: Don’t Trust BP!
To that end, he sent a letter to CEO Jack Lynch, dated May 20. He’s basically putting it out there now that the Gulf will still be full of oil as the summer hurrican season begins on June 1. Such a combination of potential factors has no known precedent, and it’s highly proactive of McCollum to put BP on the spot in advance about their massive potential liability. It’s worth noting, though, that at this writing BP has still not formally signed anything eliminating the existing cap on liability; that no one has yet forced them is, at best, suspicious.