Guests: Marylee Orr, Edward Markey
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Good evening from New York.
This is COUNTDOWN‘s special coverage of President Barack Obama‘s first address to the nation from the Oval Office. It comes on his 512th day as president, and the 57th day of the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, on the heels of his fourth trip there, and just as we learned of yet another new rate of spill estimate, perhaps 60,000 barrels a day.
Though much of the advance reporting on the speech has pointed to a president trying to position this as less like Katrina and more like an attack literally on America‘s soil, something like 9/11, it seems unlikely the president will use such an analogy tonight. An appeal for a transformation in energy policy, making the cataclysm in the Gulf a catalyst for change, that will be a part of this speech, but not necessarily its primary focus.
While he will allude to the cap and trade measure, passed by the House, stuck in the Senate and even losing Democratic support there, it not certain that the president will even use that term.
But those expecting a panoramic address on energy policy tonight may be disappointed. The focus here expected to be a report to the nation on this administration‘s efforts to address this disaster and to prevent its occurrence.
This is hardly the first Oval Office speech on energy policy—
Presidents Nixon and Ford having delivered several, but the first to take place in nearly 31 years, since President Jimmy Carter‘s address on the subject at that time.
Now, we‘ll take you to the Oval Office of the White House, and the president of the United States, Barack Obama, in his first address to the nation from there on the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
OBAMA: Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to Al Qaida wherever it exists.
And tonight, I‘ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we‘re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.
On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.
Because there‘s never been a leak this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That‘s why, just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation‘s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge, a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation‘s secretary of energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.
As a result of these efforts, we‘ve directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. And in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that‘s expected to stop the leak completely.
Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it‘s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.
But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we‘ve got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever‘s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.
Tonight, I‘d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we‘re doing to clean up the oil, what we‘re doing to help our neighbors in the gulf, and what we‘re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.
First, the clean-up.
From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental clean-up effort in our nation‘s history, an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost 40 years of experience responding to disasters. We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and clean up the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the gulf. And I‘ve authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, they‘re ready to help clean the beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims, and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.
Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming, and other collection methods. Over 5.5 million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil. We‘ve approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try to stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we‘re working with Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines.
As the clean-up continues, we will offer whatever additional resources and assistance our coastal states may need.
Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip. So if something isn‘t working, we want to hear about it. If there are problems in the operation, we will fix them.
But we have to recognize that, despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife. And sadly, no matter how effective our response is, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done.
That‘s why the second thing we‘re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast.
You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water. That living is now in jeopardy. I‘ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don‘t know how they‘re going to support their families this year. I‘ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers, even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected.
I‘ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists might start coming back. The sadness and the anger they feel is not just about the money they‘ve lost; it‘s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.
I refuse to let that happen. Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company‘s recklessness.
And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.
Beyond compensating the people of the gulf in the short term, it‘s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that‘s already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats.
And the region still hasn‘t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That‘s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.
I make that commitment tonight.
Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, who‘s also a former governor of Mississippi and a son of the Gulf Coast, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.
The third part of our response plan is the steps we‘re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again.
A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe, that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken.
That obviously was not the case in the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why. The American people deserve to know why. The families I met with last week who lost their loved ones in the explosion, these families deserve to know why.
And so I‘ve established a national commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place. Already I‘ve issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.
I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue. And while I urge the commission to complete its work as quickly as possible, I expect them to do that work thoroughly and impartially.
Now, one place we‘ve already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service.
Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility, a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves.
At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.
And when Ken Salazar became my secretary of the interior, one of his very first acts was to clean up the worst of the corruption at this agency. But it‘s now clear that the problem there ran much deeper and the pace of reform was just too slow.
And so Secretary Salazar and I are bringing in new leadership at the agency: Michael Bromwich, who was a tough federal prosecutor and inspector general. And his charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry‘s watchdog, not its partner.
So one of the lessons we‘ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that, no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk.
After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world‘s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world‘s oil reserves. And that‘s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean: because we‘re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we‘ve talked and talked about the need to end America‘s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.
Time and again, the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.
The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean-energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.
We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America‘s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.
This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels is going to take some time. But over the last year- and-a-half, we‘ve already taken unprecedented action to jump-start the clean-energy industry.
As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels. Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient. Scientists and researchers are discovering clean-energy technologies that someday will lead to entire new industries.
Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us. As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs, but only if we accelerate that transition, only if we seize the moment, and only if we rally together and act as one nation: workers and entrepreneurs, scientists and citizens, the public and private sectors.
You know, when I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill, a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America‘s businesses.
Now, there are costs associated with this transition, and there are some who believe that we can‘t afford those costs right now. I say we can‘t afford not to change how we produce and use energy, because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.
So I‘m happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party, as long as they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings, like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development, and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.
All of these approaches have merit and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet.
You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.
And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom.
Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny, our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we‘re unsure exactly what that looks like, even if we don‘t yet precisely know how we‘re going to get there, we know we‘ll get there.
It‘s a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the gulf right now.
Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region‘s fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It‘s called “The Blessing of the Fleet,” and today it‘s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea, some for weeks at a time.
The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago, at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.
And still, they came and they prayed.
For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,” a blessing that‘s granted “even in the midst of the storm.”
The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before, and we will surely know them again. What sees us through—what has always seen us through—is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.
Tonight, we pray for that courage, we pray for the people of the gulf, and we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
OLBERMANN: President Barack Obama delivering his first address from the Oval Office on this 512th day of his presidency, not in the aftermath of, but still in the midst of, as he puts it, the worst environmental disaster in American history, essentially offering a primer on the history of the disaster, added his government‘s response but not addressing what many expected tonight, a bigger picture on America‘s energy future. Not even much of a pitch for his own energy bill which, as he mentioned, was passed by the House, which he did not mention was stalled in the Senate and still sits there.
Joining me now in the wake of the president‘s remarks, Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC‘s “HARDBALL,” and MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman, also, of course, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist for “Newsweek” magazine.
Chris, I‘m going to start with you. Maybe I missed something. I thought it was a great speech if you‘ve been on another planet for the last 57 days. But was that what was needed tonight? Did he shoot really low?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: Well, I thought there was a bit of news there and I don‘t whether it‘s optimistic beyond belief, which is, in the coming days or weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. Well, that‘s the first I‘ve heard of that. In coming days, we‘re going to have this thing capped. We‘re going to effectively solve the problem?
Secondly, he didn‘t mention what power he has as chief executive of the country to make them understand they need to put this escrow account in third party hands. Is he going to litigate? Is he going to file an amicus brief with class action suit? Wait seven years for this to happen? Or is he really going to demand it to happen?
He said, I can ask them to do this. I‘m amazed he just says he has that power. We‘ll see.
And as for the energy bill, I think you hit on something important there. Cap and trade passed the House. It hasn‘t gotten anywhere in the Senate. And one reason it has gotten there is—remember how he jump-lined for immigration after Harry Reid for a while there?
He had the bill in the queue. He pushed this aside for immigration, knowing he wasn‘t going to be able to get immigration through, or even come with an I.D. card as part of a comprehensive solution. And then he pushed it aside and then he put it back in line again. It‘s not clear.
Now, the hard part of this is the heavy-lifting of energy transition. He said we have to accelerate this thing, accelerate the transition to renewables. That is the hardest thing in the world. That‘s what broke Jimmy Carter. That‘s what Ronald Reagan took a buy on (ph) completely. And Bill Clinton didn‘t do anything.
It‘s the hardest thing in the world. He‘s saying, I‘m going to do it
and then no more information.
OLBERMANN: Nothing. Nothing specific. Nothing specific at all.
MATTHEWS: The best you can do, if you do it, and the question: Is he going to do it this year? Is there going to be a bill that goes from cap and trade to something like Lugar? Is there a particular direction he‘s going in? He didn‘t tell us.
OLBERMANN: But he didn‘t even say the Senate needs to pass the bill that‘s already on the table.
MATTHEWS: Well, at least something. You need to go to conference.
OLBERMANN: Howard—I got the feeling, Howard, that the president would have said, hey, I was as surprised by this as you were. He talked about how he had approved the expansion of the offshore drilling and said he‘d been assured everything was going to go all right. And then he had the analogy, which many people expected would be more contemporary about 9/11, was instead about World War II.
And he said something I found just extraordinary, it‘s nice-speechifying. But let me read it again. “Our determination to fight for the America we want for our children, even if we‘re unsure exactly what that looks like, even if we don‘t yet know precisely how we‘re going to get there, we know we‘ll get there.”
It‘s nice, but again, how? Where was the “how” in this speech when the nation is crying out for how?
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I—you said he aimed too low. I don‘t think he was specific enough, Keith. You talked about the energy bill. The fact is that Harry Reid has told him there aren‘t 60 votes in the Senate to get beyond a filibuster with cap and trade. That‘s the detail of it.
But beyond that, I think the American people, both in the Gulf and everywhere else, wanted to know more how this was going. Somewhere between earlier today and tonight, this went from being a war and all about an assault on the Gulf to an epidemic. That‘s one thing that I thought was interesting. The commander-in-chief thing was lost.
And I thought it was—he had to confess but in a way didn‘t confess enough. Why he had approved offshore oil drilling and he had accepted these assurances? Who were these assurances from? Who were they from?
Now, if you connected the dots between that paragraph and the one below where he said the MMS was a disaster and a mess, you might get a little bit of an idea why that it happened. I think this is a war. I think he was commander-in-chief or should have been commander-in-chief tonight.
I think, just—if he‘s going to make the analogy to World War II, it should have been like Franklin Roosevelt explaining exactly what was happening in Europe—where Patton was going, where the troops were going, what the losses were, what the advances were, what the troop‘s strengths were.
Tell everybody. They‘ been watching television for the last 59 days.
They want to know how we‘re doing.
OLBERMANN: Right. Even if we don‘t know precisely how we‘re going to get there—
OLBERMANN: -- we know we‘ll get there. There wasn‘t any specificity to it.
OLBERMANN: I‘m going to revise my remark, Chris. I don‘t think he aimed low. I don‘t think he aimed at all about this. It‘s startling to have heard this, isn‘t it?
MATTHEWS: Well, I thought a couple of things were surprising to me.
Why does he continue to say that the secretary of energy has a Nobel Prize? I mean, it‘s almost gotten ludicrous. We have Carol Browner do it again tonight. I know I‘ve mocked him for doing it, saying I‘d barf if he did it one more time.
But it‘s not important. This meritocracy is going too far. This I‘m the new guy here, the head the MMS. I‘m not sure whether these degrees are going to help or these awards from overseas.
I think it‘s interesting. We have a blue ribbon panel now that‘s going to look in to what went wrong. Can‘t we move a little quicker than that, than to name a commission? That‘s what they‘ve done here. Another commission and another guy mentioned—they mentioned for having a Nobel Prize.
I think there‘s a lot of meritocracy, a lot of blue ribbon talk here. References—you know what they don‘t refer to, his cabinet. Now, this is cabinet government like I‘ve never seen before.
I asked Admiral Allen the other day, “Who do you work for?” Because there‘s been concern in the Gulf as to the lack of a clear-cut chain of command, like the president of the United States, Rahm Emanuel, cabinet does what they‘re told.
Now, I asked Allen, “Who do you work for?” Well, he says, “I work for Janet Napolitano over at homeland security and then she sort of reports to the president.” And go—wait a minute, isn‘t the president calling the shots here?
And here he was delineating everybody‘s job like Admiral Allen and he‘s got this Nobel Prize guy and then he‘s got this blue-ribbon panel. I don‘t sense executive command.
And I thought that was the purpose of this speech tonight, command and control. I‘m calling the shots. My name is Barack Obama. I‘m the boss. I‘m telling people what to do.
I didn‘t get that clarity. And I think that command and control, a phrase that‘s made—worked its way around the White House is essential here. He must be chief executive. He can no longer be Vatican observer or intellectual, or a guy calling in experts, or naming commissioners or whatever. I think he‘s—or citing people for their Nobel prizes—I think he has to be the boss.
And he never mentioned here anything beyond BP, like, aren‘t there other oil companies that could help clean up this mess? You know, we‘ve had Hofmeister on, the former Shell executive, saying you‘ve got to get all these tankers in there, all these people out there skimming.
I don‘t sense this as a real national effort yet.
MATTHEWS: And by the way, why not ask the American people, I‘ve said this before, 100 times—
MATTHEWS: -- he‘s got to get the American people, young people especially, get our spirit up again, get people down there as volunteer, form a new CCC. Get people down in the Gulf cleaning up this muck, thousands, tens of thousands of people.
OLBERMANN: Well, yes. There‘s—
MATTHEWS: We would feel a lot better, I think.
OLBERMANN: There‘s another problem with that, which is that BP is still keeping people away from volunteering or keeping them from protecting themselves because they don‘t want the shots of people—
MATTHEWS: No, it‘s BP, because they want the shots of people wearing gas masks trying to clean up the goddamned dispersant that‘s making people fall and knock over, going to go to Baton Rouge later in the show.
Before we finish here, one more question, Howard, on this. I heard about al Qaeda at the beginning of this speech. I heard about the recession. I‘m not saying those are not serious issues at all times. I did not hear in here about what he is doing.
This seems to me to have been a speech that was committed to death.
Is there any—do you have any idea of the etymology of this speech?
FINEMAN: Well, I talked to White House officials before it and asked them what did they want to accomplish. And what I got back was very earnest. You know, we want to explain what‘s going on with the crisis. We want to explain how we‘re going to clean the Gulf. We want to talk about long-range goals.
But this 15 or 16 or 17-minute speech really didn‘t go into any of those things in detail. I think it was earnest enough. And let‘s give the president credit for wanting to do the right thing, but I think it‘s what comes through here is the sense that he doesn‘t have a fingertip feel for this.
You know, yes, to use Roosevelt again, since Obama who cited World War
FINEMAN: -- Roosevelt was intimately aware, as was Churchill, of every last detail. That didn‘t convey itself from the president tonight.
OLBERMANN: No. Not if you hear him say, well, I was assured everything would be fine.
FINEMAN: Yes, exactly.
OLBERMANN: That‘s why I went along with more deepwater drilling and not even saying, and now I have with me, the empty suit of the executive who told me that.
FINEMAN: Right, exactly.
OLBERMANN: I mean, when I said—look, when I suggested here before
that we needed to hear the president articulating the anger of the nation
at this—at this fiasco, this ongoing and unstoppable fiasco in the Gulf,
I don‘t—I don‘t want him, you know, pounding the side of the glass or
anything, but something—as Chris said—to lift some spirit, to sense -
give a sense that there‘s something to be done about this, rather than just sit around and believe that—where did that estimate come from of 90 percent?
Chris made a great point. Where did that estimate come from and what happens to it if it‘s wrong, like every other estimate, every other statistic is wrong?
FINEMAN: It comes from BP.
OLBERMANN: It comes from BP, exactly. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: In the coming days.
FINEMAN: All the other oil executives today on the Hill completely threw BP to the wolves and said, hey, we wouldn‘t have done it that way.
OLBERMANN: Well, I think the president was nicer to BP and big oil than the big oil executives were to BP this afternoon.
Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, Chris Matthews, of course, we should point out his documentary, the “HARDBALL” documentary, “Rise of the New Right” airs tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern and midnight here on MSNBC. I‘m looking forward to it, Chris.
Thank you both.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: What we did not hear much of in the president‘s remarks, big oil‘s admission today to Congress that it was woefully unprepared for almost any stage of this crisis. What we heard none of in this president‘s remarks—the next stage of the crisis, live to Baton Rouge and more on scores of first responders getting sick and BP‘s efforts to keep them from wearing protective gear because it looks bad.
OLBERMANN: The American public was looking for BP to take some simple responsibility for its egregious mistakes thus far from in the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. It was difficult to find it in today‘s congressional hearings. But our third story tonight, the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Congressman Ed Markey did manage to get the ludicrous symbol of the planning fiasco. The Gulf of Mexico walrus on the record. He joins us in a moment.
First, in the gulf today, BP suspended the collection of oil for five hours after a lightning strike from a storm caused a fire at the top of the (inaudible) at the Discovery Enterprise. It underscores how collection would be adversely affected should a hurricane hit the gulf.
Meantime in Washington, five oil companies‘ executives can face Congress. They ultimately did not speak from exactly the same playbook despite early indications of contrary. One item they did share however, identical and ineffective Gulf of Mexico response plans. The chairman engages in some show and tell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ED MARKEY, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee: As you can see by looking at the covers of these five plans on the screen and over my head, the pictures are the same for each plan. All that is changed is the color. ExxonMobil‘s Gulf of Mexico oil spill response plan lists walruses under sensitive biological and human resources. As I‘m sure you know, there aren‘t any walruses in the Gulf of Mexico and there have not been for three million years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All the oil company executives agreed that it was inappropriate, even embarrassing to have walruses in their Gulf of Mexico response plans. Chairman Markey repeatedly referenced a BP document that placed the range of the possibilities for an accident at 1,000 to 14,000 barrels/day. Without results, he asked BP America President Lamar McKay why his company low balled the actual spill rate at 1,000 barrels per day. Today‘s new estimate, 35,000 to 60,000 barrels/day. Chairman Markey also repeatedly asked for a specific apology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Lamar McKay, BP America President: Please, one final chance, apologize for getting that number wrong.
We are sorry for everything the gulf coast is going through. We are sorry for that and the spill. What I can say is we have provided every bit of data and information we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And during further questioning from the panel, Mr. McKay offered this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCKAY: I understand everyone‘s frustration with how long this is taking, but the spill response has actually been pretty effective in terms of dealing with it on the water. It‘s unfortunate we can‘t get it stopped at the source right now. We‘re doing everything we can to do that.
Unidentified man: Congressman Bart Stupak managed to grind out a straight answer from the CEO of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson when Stupak asked about that company‘s plans for a worst case scenario.
REX TILLERSON, EXXONMOBIL CEO: We are not well equipped to handle them. There will be impacts, as we are seeing. And we‘ve never represented anything different than that. And that‘s why the emphasis is always on preventing these things from occurring, because when they happen, we‘re not very well equipped to deal with them. And that‘s just a fact of the enormity of what we‘re dealing with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As promised, here is Congressman Ed Markey, the democrat of Massachusetts, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Energy and the Environment. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
MARKEY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: I can imagine the choices of a thousand different answers to this, but that was your greatest source of frustration today.
MARKEY: Well, we‘re looking for a little bit of humility from BP this late into the game as the size of the spill has gone from 1,000 to 5,000 to 10,000 and now, as you were just saying, up to 30,000 to 60,000. But yet there is still this incredible denial in BP, this still inability to understand how much the American people are appalled at their performance. And to be honest with you, it‘s still, I think, not clear to themselves that they‘re either lying or they are just grossly incompetent, and they just can‘t come to grips with it which is why, I think, a couple of the members of our panel today asked for Mr. McKay to resign.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Stupak noted that Exxon‘s media response plan was five times longer than its plan for protecting wildlife. Did the hearing at least begin to demonstrate how grossly ill prepared all of these oil companies are at this moment in the event of another major spill such as the one we‘re experiencing right now?
MARKEY: It‘s pretty clear that the only technology that these companies have invested in for a response to a spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a Xerox machine. They basically Xeroxed, each one of them did, the same plan that had walruses in it, that had the name of a deceased person with their telephone number from 2005. It is now 2010. And they all had the same plan. So, it‘s obvious that they all decided that they would promise to the federal government that they could clean up a spill of 250,000 barrels a day, 200,000 barrels per day, but yet in their spill response plan, they had walruses, they had the names and telephone numbers of dead people. They just did not take it seriously. And to be honest with you, MMS turned into a lap dog and not the watchdog, which it should have been.
OLBERMANN: To your mind, congressman, did the president‘s speech tonight sufficiently separate the government‘s response from BP‘s response?
MARKEY: In my opinion, I think that the president said that there will be a plan, that people will be compensated for this harm that the spill will be stopped and will be cleaned up. But then he pivoted, which is the important point. He pivoted to a clean energy future. The wind, the solar, the biomass, the geothermal, the oil electric vehicles, so that we can take on China, tells OPEC we don‘t need their oil anymore than we need their sand. And I think that message, if it gets repeated, will, in fact, resonate across this country and give us a chance this year to pass an historic energy and climate bill.
OLBERMANN: You‘re part of our—by CAMRA legislature has already done that work. Well, is there any reason to your knowledge that the president didn‘t even say in that speech that the senate needed to pass the bill just sitting there doing nothing in the senate?
MARKEY: Well, you are right. The president mentioned the legislation, which Congressman Waxman and I and Speaker Pelosi were able to pass through the House of Representatives last June, 2006. And I think what he was saying and I think it was pretty clear to me anyway is that Congress should finish that business. That there is no more important uncompleted agenda for our country than this energy and climate legislation, and I think that this is now ironically, unexpectedly, going to create an appetite amongst the American voter for us to turn to this new energy future in our country, this renewable energy future, create the jobs here, back out the imported oil, and basically ensure the plume that‘s being sent up into the sky each day, that matches the plume under the water is dealt with before we se those catastrophic consequences. So, yes, I think he did the job, but it‘s only the beginning of this case that he has to make to the American people.
OLBERMANN: I hope you‘re correct. Congressman Ed Markey, the democrat of Massachusetts, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. Again, our great thanks for staying late with us.
MARKEY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And our next phase of the story is becoming very ugly and very rapidly. Reports of four states of clean-up workers already sick, possible chemical poisoning. Threatened perhaps by BP employees as they tried to wear their own protective hazmat suits. Stay with us tonight on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The British Petroleum Company has now issued a response to the president‘s address tonight on the subject of BP‘s deepwater horizon disaster in the gulf. A spokesperson, no name given said, “We share the president‘s goal of shutting off the oil as quickly as possible, cleaning up the oil and mitigating the impact on the people and environment of the gulf coast. We look forward to meeting with President Obama tomorrow for a constructive discussion about how best to achieve these mutual goals.” It‘s unsigned, which should tell you everything.
The responders are now reported to be getting sick and BP is reported to be interfering in the use of hazmat suits and other protective gear. We go live to Baton Rouge next on countdown.
OLBERMANN: Even as BP works to destroy or cover up the evidence of dead animals and decimated wet lands in the gulf, it appears it is also working to suppress news of an unfolding human health crisis in the gulf. BP blaming the headaches, sore throats, dizziness, nausea of first responders on fatigue, even on food poisoning as we‘ve heard. Even as second in command Doug Suttles admitting the companies clean up technology is not of this century. Associated press reporting yesterday workers were not give protective gear for the clean up effort. And if they were, it was not the right kind.
Marine Biologist Riki Ott warning on this news hour just last night of quote, “invisible oil.” Underwater plumes coming ashore also affecting public health.
Meanwhile, Woai in San Antonio, Texas reporting that doctors have apparently given a name to the emerging illness calling it or toxicant induced loss of tolerance. Those effective find themselves in tolerant to everyday scents, household products, medicines, and even food after exposure to chemicals and toxic fumes. The Louisiana Department of Health reporting over 70 people have gotten sick from the spill, 15 more in Alabama.
And in Baton Rouge, let‘s go there to the Executive Director of Louisiana Environmental Action Network Marylee Orr. Thanks for some of your time tonight.
MARYLEE ORR, LA ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION NETWORK EXEC. DIRECTOR: Thank you, Keith. It‘s an honor to be with you. Thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: Your groups out there helping the first responders in the gulf, tell us your experience, what you‘re hearing from these people about their health.
ORR: Well, what we‘re hearing is folks are getting very sick, dizzy, vomiting, nausea, headaches, chest pains. And not just from the folks who are in the first responders, but folks who live along the gulf is also having health effects.
OLBERMANN: Are these—do these symptoms last? I don‘t want to get to medical? But is this a brief exposure sort of related and underscored thing or does it last?
ORR: Well, our concern is that it will stay with them, for some folks who go out and doing the clean up work. They come back, they feel better and they go back again. Because it‘s a choice between feeding their family and not having any money to feed their family. And they‘re willing to sacrifice their health to feed their family. And I think that‘s tragic.
OLBERMANN: Your groups have been distributing what protective gear you have to these workers. Do you know what BP‘s reaction has been to workers showing up with their own protective gear?
ORR: Yes, I‘m glad that you brought that up. LEAN and the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper is distributing protective gear. When our folks, our fishermen folks had their respirators on, they were told to take them off, that they would be fired if they use them.
OLBERMANN: Fired. For wearing.
ORR: Said they were not allowed to use them.
OLBERMANN: What was the premise of that?
ORR: Fired for using safety equipment. I think that perhaps they‘ll afraid that they all meet some sort liability, that there‘s a problem in the air if they allowed them to use the respirators.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Ott said last night that the president needed in the speech to order that respirators be used by all clean up responders, full hazmat gear and whatever else might be a secondary step, but the first to do would be some nasal and oral protection for what they were breathing in. Was she right? And where was the president on this topic tonight in your opinion?
ORR: She‘s absolutely correct. What we‘re distributing is a hat face respirator with organic vapor filter, nitrile gloves. They‘re protective gear. I notice that the president, unfortunately, did not really talk a whole lot, at least I didn‘t hear, about worker safety. I didn‘t hear anything about protective gear, I didn‘t think, hear anything about the dispersant issue kit. We have one million, 100,000 gallons of dispersant in that water out there. And we have the dispersants and then the oil together. It spells, we think a lot of health problems for a lot of folks. To say nothing of the little animals.
OLBERMANN: All right. You put the numbers there in terms of the supply of these toxins. Do we have any idea how many people are affected? Is there a guess at this point?
ORR: I don‘t even think there‘s an estimate. We get calls on a daily basis, we get air quality calls, we get calls from people saying that there have been more frequent asthma attacks. There are concerns when they have been burning these slicks, you name it. Folks have been reporting health problems and then of course, the workers who are out on the water, they certainly are very affected and have been afraid to talk about it. They do not want to lose their job. We think BP should provide protective gear to those folks.
OLBERMANN: Congresswoman Maloney of New York compared in terms of the exposure to toxicity. What‘s happened to the clean-up workers in the gulf to what happened to the clean-up workers at Ground Zero in New York. Do you feel that‘s an apt comparison?
ORR: I think that‘s right on the money. We actually work with Naish (ph) which is the group that still working since 9/11. Just like the folks who went down there to save everyone after 9/11, our folks want to run out and save the gulf. We don‘t want them to save the gulf at the extents of their health.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. Marylee Orr.
OLBERMANN: Executive Director of Louisiana Environmental Action Network, LEAN. Great, thanks for your time tonight. Good cluck.
ORR: Thank you, Keith, so much.
OLBERMANN: In worst, a headline for the faithful and the doubting a like to think about a much needed happier note, if you will. Statue of Jesus destroyed by act of God.
OLBERMANN: A proud announcement here. Lawrence O‘Donnell beginning
his own prime time show here on MSNBC at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. The time
frame, start date has not yet been set, but he‘ll be moving to 10:00. The
re-air of countdown will be moving to 11:00 p.m. and the entirety of
primetime will be populated by me and my former sub co-host. Seriously, well done, Lawrence.
Glenn Beck again calls the president a racist. That‘s twice in two days. And a lot of deep thought tonight across from where the 60-foot statue of Jesus used to be outside Cincinnati. Also Rachel on a president‘s gulf speech ahead.
OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow and more on the president‘s speech on the gulf crisis immediately after you get out your pitchforks and your torches because it‘s time for tonight‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”
Glenn Beck, the ratings are slipping again over there, because now, two consecutive days he‘s accused the president of racism. He‘s still pushing the story that the president will not meet with BP CEO Tony Hayward even though he is going to meet with him tomorrow. Why won‘t he meet with him even though he‘s meeting with him? “He‘s a white CEO.” That concludes in polls and Obama, quote out of context from 14 years ago, “Maybe that‘s it, white CEOs, they don‘t want to pay their tax dollars and have those tax dollars go to Inner City Kids.”
Yesterday, he suggests the president was guilty of the kind of racism against CEOs black or white, so he invented a new word for it. Capitalism. As I said, on two worst person on Twitter yesterday, if imbeciles, capitalism means prejudice behavior against capitalist. Then, we accuses Obama of socialism, that must mean prejudice behavior against socialist. Also today, if I get out of control and start leveling baseless charges, guess what happens? I‘m fired. Well, there you have it FOX, even Beck thinks he should be fired since he start leveling baseless charges right around the 10th of February, 1964.
Runner-up, Tom Mullins, Republican Nominee for the House Seat on New Mexico 3rd on immigration, quote, “We could put land mines along the border. I know it sounds crazy. We could put up signs in 23 different languages if necessary.”
And he said he was particularly worried about people carrying nuclear weapons across the Mexican border because of course, exactly what you want is for some guy carrying a nuclear weapon across the Mexican border to get blowed up by a mine since that would also blow up the nuclear weapon. But our winner, I‘m not exactly sure who to gave this to, it‘s from Monroe, Ohio. See this? This is the king of kings statue outside Solid Rock Church in Monroe, 62 feet high, 40 feet wide. Built of fiberglass and foam and valued at $300,000.
Since its constructions six years ago. Its nickname among the local oracles is Touchdown Jesus. Well, it was. This was the scene at 11:15 p.m. last night in the town outside of Cincinnati as Touchdown Jesus burned to the ground. And I mean fast. The estimate was maybe four or five minutes after the hit. Touchdown Jesus statue burned to the ground after it was hit by a bolt of lightning. Or as the headline of Cincinnati Inquirer website put it, statue of Jesus, destroyed by act of God. So, it‘s either a random act that would seem to prove atheists correct or it was a deliberate act that would seem to prove the religious correct, but maybe not Christians?
Whoever you are and whoever you did this, this is the worst next message we‘ve ever gotten. Somebody, today‘s worst persons in the world or maybe best. I don‘t know. That‘s countdown for this, the 57th day of the deep water horizon disaster in the gulf. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
All right. MSNBC coverage of the president address under the disaster continues with that Ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow—Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, “the Rachel Maddow show” host: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What did you think of the speech?
OLBERMANN: OK. We‘re in full agreement.
MADDOW: I got to say, big picture, I‘m excited to see the president treating this with the gravity of something that require an oval office address to the nation. In terms of the content of that address to the nation, I think the country is ahead of the politicians. I think that we all need to hear a little bit more, and I think we could have taken a lot more adult talk from the president on this.
OLBERMANN: Would you please expand on that for the next hour?
MADDOW: I will.
MADDOW: Thank you, Keith. Appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: See you later.
MADDOW: In the next hour, we will be talking about the president‘s oval office address that starts with a recap coming up momentarily. And then we will be joined by Ezra Klein to talk about the policy implications and politics.
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