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Unexpected praise in Louisiana for Obama administration's spill response

By Marc Kaufman

Once it became clear that the explosion of the Deep Horizon oil rig was going to cause a major human and environmental disaster, the political question that quickly arose was whether President Obama would do a better job than President Bush was perceived to have done after Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal made some early criticisms of the federal government's response to the oil spill, and got wide attention for them.

Another Louisiana Republican who is very much on the front line of the oil spill response is Plaquemines Parish President William "Billy" Nungesser, elected in 2006 and a self-styled "Reagan Republican." I visited Nungesser at his Port Sulfur home to discuss his plans to bulk up the barrier islands off the Louisana shore as a way to protect the invaluable marshes inland, and was surprised to hear him volunteer a very different assessment of the Obama administration's performance.

Nungesser said that he had met with Obama for two hours when he came to Louisiana, and that he had met several times with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He came away from the first meeting convinced that Obama "really cares" and "understands exactly what we face," and that that Jackson "was making things happen." He said he and Jackson hugged after a three-hour meeting.

He said the parish was badly damaged from Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, but that no top government officials came out to see what had happened and talk to the people. Obama, he said, not only came to the parish after the spill, but when bad weather made it impossible to helicopter down to the waiting fishermen and elected officials at that the tip of the peninula in Venice, he drove down - 1.5 hours each way. With some pleasure, Nungesser reported that Obama had driven by a huge plaster Republican elephant on his way to Venice, and that locals took photos of the motorcade passing

"He's a Democrat and I'm a Republican, so we'll have our differences," Nungesser said. "But Obama did something I've never seen before at that level - he came out, listened to what we had to say, and has been delivering on what he said he would."

He also said that as far as he knew, Obama was giving other Louisiana officials what they asked for and needed as well. He saved his criticism for the media coverage, which he said have not accurately reflected how well the different levels of government were working together.

Speaking in Venice, La. last weekend, Jindal was not overtly critical of Obama and the federal response, but nor was he complimentary. Asked how he would grade the responses so far of both BP and the Obama administration, he had nothing good to say. Both, he replied, had so far earned nothing more than "an incomplete."


Mike Shepard

 |  May 14, 2010; 6:00 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Army Corps speeds La. barrier island permitting | Next: Review planned of gas company waivers on environmental analysis


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I thought Mr. Obama did a fine job with his mining disaster involvement too. It's not hard to empathise with others when you are with them in their times of tribulation, I think that's why he goes to these places. It also gives him the opportunity to both assess the issue at ground level and fortify his own convictions - when you can convince yourself it's a lot easier to convince others, a mighty weapon to have in battles of ideologies.

Posted by: icurhuman2 | May 15, 2010 6:25 PM
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Regarding Obama Administration's response: It would not have mattered if Obama had all of the Coast Guard Fleet there (which most were) at time of oil spill...There wasn't and still isn't a damn thing that could be done to stop the spillage. You can blame Obama until the last drop flows from the Ocean floor, but he didn't cause it and he can't stop it.

Posted by: october30 | May 15, 2010 1:36 PM
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Obama has a personal grace that Dubya sorely lacked.

Posted by: daysman | May 14, 2010 11:48 AM
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Kerry/Lieberman rebrand “Cap & Trade” as “American Power” and hope you won’t notice

Posted by: AJAX2 | May 14, 2010 11:22 AM
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It is amazing how little the Federal Government has done to contain the oil spill, in spite of the Fleet and Coast Guard not being otherwise engaged.

Posted by: donx65 | May 14, 2010 11:11 AM
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Jindal has nothing to lose (other than his integrity) by bashing Obama.

Nungesser has nothing to gain (other than the ire of dead-ender partisan Republicans) by praising Obama.

That expresses pretty accurately the state of the Republican Party in Louisiana and in the United States.

If a Republican is willing to trade integrity for votes, they rise in the polls and win the occasional election. They've learned that lesson well -- it is the core strategy of today's GOP.

If a Republican is willing to trade popularity within the party for an opportunity to speak the plain truth, they gain nothing but spitting and epithets from fellow Republicans and a little personal sense of integrity.

When integrity is valued cheaply, Republicans prosper. And that is the world they are trying hard to take us to.

Posted by: 1EgoNemo | May 14, 2010 9:40 AM
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Let this be an example for anyone planning to vote Republican in November. Bush/Cheney damaged our country on so many different fronts that I'm surprised President Barack Obama has been able to handle as much of that damage as he has to the present. If the Republicans ever regain power, we can kiss this country good-bye. They'll finish the job begun by Bush/Cheney. Is it a surprise to anyone that we see and hear so little of Dubya as compared to other Presidents, both Democratic and Republican?

Posted by: Caliguy55 | May 14, 2010 9:33 AM
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Jindal is more interested in his political future than present realities. Louisiana has lived off the largesse of the federal government for years and continues to. Jindal has used federal stimulus money to balance the state's budget for the last two years. Yet at the same time, he criticizes Obama mercilessly. Louisiana needs to grow up and accept responsibility for itself; don't expect that under the present governor, however. He would have critized Obama if he had flown in and singlehandedly stopped the leaking oil. It's a kneejerk reaction from a politician with national ambitions (though with little hope of achieving them). Meanwhile, Louisiana sinks lower and lower and ...

Posted by: gtinla | May 14, 2010 9:16 AM
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Jindal is another brought and paid for lacky just like Steele. Big boss republicans put him in power and he has to follow the obstructionist hard line of the big bosses or else their money can buy another minority an elected position of power and put him back into obscurity. I'll bet there are a lot of people who though when they elected Jindal, they were electing a grown up who would represent the interests of the people. Now we see how wrong they were on all counts.

Posted by: pjc8300892 | May 14, 2010 8:36 AM
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It is obvious the Republican machine has decided to attack Obama by its tactic of calling this disaster "Obama's Katrina." It appears from this anecdote, and others, that the Administration is as on top of the situation and clean up as can be expected with a disaster of such a magnitude.

I would suggest if Mr. Nungesser is as independent as he sounds, he might consider calling a press conference with other parsih officials to put on the record what is really going on down there vs. what the Republican spin machine is manufacturing to weaken our President and his agenda out of Washington.

At times like this there should be no party affiliation but it is obvious the Republicans crave power so much they are willing to undermine the credibility of a President and Administration which seems to be more dedicated to serving the public of Louisiana regardless of their political affiliations. All those Louisiana Republicans should keep that in mind come the next election. They might not agree with everything Obama is trying to do but they, at least, have measured the mettle of the man face to face during a disaster and found him to be a bit more compassionate and engaged than his predecessor whose fly over style of managment is still fresh in the mind of every citizen of the Gulf Coast.

Character does count for something as Mr. Nungesser has discovered.

Posted by: bobfbell | May 14, 2010 8:01 AM
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Nungusser. Man, there's a household word.

Posted by: toshiromifune | May 14, 2010 8:00 AM
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Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, Jindal. Live by the sword, die by it. We wouldn't want big government in your shorts.

Posted by: SarahBB | May 14, 2010 7:41 AM
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Jindal can't even be gracious with Obama. What a loser (Jindal). The comparisons to Katrina are spurious: the arrival and devastation of Katrina were predicted several days in advance; its time of arrival was known down to the minute; the authorities had plenty of time to prepare. In the case of the rig explosion, it was completely unexpected, and, hence, the gov't was not fully prepared. Should they have read someone's mind? The Republicans are completely bankrupt in this matter.

Posted by: lafayette89 | May 14, 2010 6:33 AM
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