NPR logo BP Will Feel Either 'Boot On Throat' Or 'Feet To Fire'

BP Will Feel Either 'Boot On Throat' Or 'Feet To Fire'

The Obama Administration clearly wants to send the signal that it's keeping the pressure on BP to do everything humanly possible to stop the uncontrolled flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and to get the company to pick up the cost for cleaning up the mess and the economic losses to people in the gulf region.

So the administration has embraced the violent imagery of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who said administration officials would keep their "boot on the throat" of the energy giant to make sure the company does all it can and more to address the problems caused by its uncontrolled ocean gusher.

But those words sounded to some observers as though the administration was suggesting that the company was somehow dragging its heels. If the administration just wanted to indicate it was going to keep the pressure up on BP why not just say it that way?

The issue came up during Monday's press briefing by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

MR. GIBBS: Look, we're — I mean, in the Gulf, I'm sorry. We're — I used this phrase yesterday, as Secretary Salazar used this phrase, and that is we are going to do what we have to do. We will keep our, as Secretary Salazar said, our boot on the throat of BP to ensure that they're doing all that they — all that is necessary, while we do all that is humanly possible to deal with this incident. Absolutely...

REPORTER: Robert, I just want to follow up on that. When you say, "keep your boot on the throat of BP," obviously sounds tough, but how do you actually follow up on it when, as was pointed out, the liability cap seems to be $75 million?...

REPORTER: On the "boot on the throat" thing, Ed said it sounds tough. Well, it actually sounds hostile. Is that an accurate reflection of the relationship between the federal government and BP right now? Is it a hostile relationship? Do you really need to keep your boot on their throat in order to get them to act?

MR. GIBBS: I think that is — I think the expression largely conveys that while the responsible party is BP, we will do, as the oversight authority in managing the cleanup, the spread — we're going to ensure that the responsible party is doing everything that it can and should do.

REPORTER: Do you think the President feels like he needs to keep his boot on their throat? Is that the way he's reacting?

MR. GIBBS: I think the President accurately conveyed in his remarks yesterday that we are going to do everything humanly possible, and ensure that BP is doing everything humanly possible, to deal with this as comprehensively and as quickly as they can.

REPORTER: The reason I ask, the boot on the throat metaphor indicates or suggests at least to those who might hear it for the first time that something went awry or has gone awry with the relationship, and the administration or the federal government needs to be much more forceful to force an intractable partner to do something they otherwise wouldn't do. I mean, it suggests that the cooperation has broken down.

MR. GIBBS: Maybe I'm just from a different part of the country. Would "hold your feet to the fire," would that be something more that would be understandable to —

REPORTER: I'm just asking why that metaphor —

MR. GIBBS: I'm glad I didn't wear my boots today, right? I don't know, holding your feet to the fire could create some pain, Chip — again, I — maybe you guys don't go camping either. (Laughter.)