The Gulf of Mexico is a day's drive away, but Colorado's still gotten slimed by the spill. As head of the Department of the Interior, which badly underestimated the environmental threat posed by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, former senator Ken Salazar has found his formerly squeaky-clean reputation marred by a big oil slick. And Tom Strickland, the two-time former Senate candidate who moved to Washington as Salazar's deputy, was rafting the Grand Canyon when the mess hit, inspiring comparisons with President George Bush, who'd flown over the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina — and waved for the cameras.
Michael Brown knows about the dangerous degrees of difference between image and action. After all, he was head of FEMA when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans — "Can I quit now?" he e-mailed an aide as the waters were rising. "Can I go home?" — a gig that made him a permanent punchline after President Bush lauded the agency's emergency response with "Heckuva job, Brownie." A month later, Brown was out of that job — the fall guy, he says, for higher-ups' own inaction as the flood waters rose in New Orleans. "I'm pulling strings to make these things happen, and nothing happens," he recalled back in 2006.
Brown wasn't any more impressed with the Obama administration's response to the current crisis off the Louisiana coastline, as he told Fox News's Neil Cavuto last week. And as he repeated to David Sirota, AM 760's new morning talk-show host, the next day. But Brown has a theory that more than mere incompetence was involved this time: He argues that the Obama White House was taking advantage of the disaster in order to back away from a pledge to support more offshore oil exploration, which Obama has publicly supported but actually opposes, Brown says.
Brown, who moved back to Colorado after the Katrina debacle, has no trouble accounting for the things he's done, the things he's said. But he doesn't like being slimed for things he hasn't said — for example, that Obama minions actually caused the spill. As Michael Roberts reported in the Latest Word, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made that assertion on May 5, only to back away from it the next day, when he claimed that he'd been thinking about remarks made on another Fox show, Fox & Friends.
And as it turns out, those statements were made by former Colorado resident turned previous White House press secretary Dana Perino, who's become a regular on Fox and has even subbed as a perky Fox & Friends host. As a guest on that show on May 3, Perino said, "I'm not trying to introduce a conspiracy theory — but was this deliberate? You have to wonder if there was sabotage involved..."
Which, really, had to be what Brown was wondering after Gibbs couldn't keep his Republicans straight. "It's funny, but I also find it sad that journalism's gotten to this point," he told Roberts. "It's just not what I said at all. The comments I made to Neil Cavuto was that they'd invoked the Rahm Emanuel rule number one: Use a crisis to your advantage. But some people apparently believe this is all some big conspiracy by Obama — that he caused the leak. And I don't feel that way at all."
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For the record, here's how Brown does feel: "When this occurred in the Gulf, there's no doubt in my mind that they saw it as an opportunity to say, 'This is a dangerous industry, a bad industry, and we ought to limit it to the extent we can' — and he shut down the existing drilling offshore, or at least suspended it, which is a huge overreaction. I venture to say there will be a car wreck in Denver today, but we don't shut down driving. And there may be a plane crash somewhere, but we don't shut down the airlines. If they were true advocates for offshore drilling, they would have said, 'This is a bad accident' — because it is bad. But they would have also recognized that there are something like 4,000 wells in the Gulf, and we've had this one accident. And accidents occur in every industry. You can't have a perfect record."
Especially in the press, which "missed the whole story," Brown told Roberts. "When I first saw [Gibbs] say that, I was sitting with my wife, and of course it bugged her. But my first thought was, 'Gee, I must have gotten under their skin.' And then I realized what they were saying, and I thought, good grief. I can't believe they extrapolated or misinterpreted or flat-out lied about it. And now you've got people like [MSNBC's] Chris Matthews feeding the idea that I said Obama caused the accident. And you have Bill O'Reilly being asked by George Stephanopoulos what he would have done if I'd said something like that on his show, and he said, 'I would have slapped him.' And I didn't say anything like that at all."
Fortunately for Brown, he has no trouble clarifying what he did say. And that's because, in one of the more unlikely career moves of all time, he's not only running his own consulting company and publishing a book this summer on Katrina titled Deadly Indifference, but he also has a regular job as an evening KOA talk-show host. So he has a platform to defend his honor and explain why he knows Obama didn't plan the spill. "Having been inside big government," he says, "I know that there's no one that competent to pull it off. And the conspiracy nuts, they can't keep secrets."