Week In Politics: Oil Spill, Barton's Apologies This week, President Obama called out BP in an Oval Office address, and a GOP congressman apologized for the government's "shakedown" of the oil company. Melissa Block speaks with our regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times, about the week in politics.
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Week In Politics: Oil Spill, Barton's Apologies

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Week In Politics: Oil Spill, Barton's Apologies

Week In Politics: Oil Spill, Barton's Apologies

Week In Politics: Oil Spill, Barton's Apologies

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/127937259/127937253" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This week, President Obama called out BP in an Oval Office address, and a GOP congressman apologized for the government's "shakedown" of the oil company. Melissa Block speaks with our regular political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times, about the week in politics.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And recovery summer is also shadowed by gusher summer, as the BP oil well continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico. Those live images from the seafloor - a constant reminder of the ongoing spill, and the economic and environmental consequences.

T: columnist E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, and David Brooks of the New York Times. Welcome to you both.

BLOCK: Thank you.

BLOCK: Good to be here.

BLOCK: And, David, let's start with you. The president giving that Oval Office address on Tuesday night, then summoning the BP executives to the White House on Wednesday. What do you make of these latest turns in how the administration is handling this?

BLOCK: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is outraged after one thing after another, most recently these vacuum barges that aren't allowed to operate - or weren't allowed to operate in the gulf. So you've got a whole series of administrative problems that need ironing out, and I don't think the president has been focused enough on those. He's been more energized by thinking about the energy bill, which is a good bill, but we've got a problem right now. And so there hasn't - there's been a lack of execution and a lack of administration.

BLOCK: And E.J., David calls this - in his column today - a federalism problem. Do you see it as a federalism problem?

BLOCK: I'm just not sure, on these practical issues, if he had talked a whole lot more about - more boom or skimmers or people, I'm not sure that would've helped him much. In the end, he's got a few weeks to get this really moving so the complaints stop.

BLOCK: Could I just comment on that?

BLOCK: Briefly. Briefly.

BLOCK: This is the core issue of the Obama presidency. He has tremendous faith in experts and gathering smart people around the room. But I think a century's worth of developmental work has shown us that you can get a lot of great experts. But people on the ground, with local knowledge, are just going to be more reliable in the long run. I think that's a central tension in the Obama presidency.

BLOCK: Could I make one other point on this?

BLOCK: Boy, we have so much we want to get to, but go ahead, E.J.

BLOCK: Yeah, just very quickly. One of Obama's hidden problems on this is the three states most impacted by this, are three of the most Republican states in the union: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi. And so I think you're going to hear a lot of negative stuff from down there from a lot of officials, even when things start going better.

BLOCK: Speaking of negative stuff, there were jaws dropping all over Washington yesterday when congressman Joe Barton, Republican of Texas, apologized to BP's CEO Tony Hayward at a hearing. He said he was ashamed of what he called the White House shakedown - getting the company to pay $20 billion into this escrow fund to compensate victims of the oil spill. And by the end of the hearing, he backed off a bit. And then after a huge outcry, Joe Barton issued an apology for his apology - David, apparently under a great bit of duress from the Republican leadership. What are you hearing?

BLOCK: That is just a scary prospect. And so I do think there's a kernel to the larger stupidity of what Barton said.

BLOCK: E.J., does this, though, give the Democrats just a big, fat, hanging curveball right over the plate?

BLOCK: And I don't know, David talks about, you know, heavy hand of the federal government. This is basically saying to BP, we don't really trust you, and we want you to put some money away so these people are going to get their money. I don't think that's an unreasonable role for the federal government to play.

BLOCK: I want to save just a little bit of time here to talk about the World Cup. You guys are both, I understand, watching avidly. Can we just say right now the U.S. was robbed today? David...

BLOCK: We have to remember, football, soccer, is about agony. I spent 45 minutes in agony as the U.S. played terribly in the first half. Then I had like, five minutes of joy as they pulled equal and then more - and a full day of agony as the referee just cheated us out of this win. So soccer, unlike American games, is about agony and pain.

BLOCK: We're talking about a goal in the last few minutes of the game by the U.S. that was declared not a goal because of a foul. E.J., you were watching?

BLOCK: Well, no, I wasn't watching today, but I have been listening a lot and it's on - I listen to my radio. First, I've got to say, my mind has been - was much more on my dear Boston Celtics (unintelligible) number two. But for one quarter would've pulled off one of the great upsets - recent upsets - in history. But I think it's fascinating, a lot of Americans are getting into soccer in a way they never were before. And some of it has to do with how many of their kids are playing it.

BLOCK: OK, thanks to you both: E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, David Brooks of The New York Times. Thanks.

BLOCK: Thank you.

BLOCK: Thank you.

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