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August 3rd, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Letter to the President #561: 'So precisely how much damage did the oil do?'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama’s team in the Gulf seems guardedly optimistic that the worst has passed in the big oil spill. I am the same, even as I spill my thoughts out in my daily letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

Well, I am down in my beloved New Orleans again as I write this. When I landed it was around 97 degrees with a heat index around 110. To paraphrase an old joke: I saw the a cop chasing a guy who robbed a liquor store and they were both walking. Anyway, there is nothing like home! It’s kind of funny, sometimes I go for years without being sent down here, and then times like this come along where I am going back and forth every few weeks like a FedEx delivery plane. Even my old friends are tired of me calling. “Well, Tom, it’s good to see you…but it’s just not that special anymore.”

I’m here to keep an eye on the big “static kill” operation out on the oil well. If it works I hope they bring it to DC. We have some “static” there that certainly ought to be done it. Ha! All kidding aside I will be so pleased if we can finally put this leaky pipe to rest and send the plumbers home.

That said, I was astonished today to learn the latest estimates of how much oil was spilled: 4.9 million barrels. I’m no scientist, but that seems like a lot. I mean, if I had that much, wouldn’t I be sort of rich? (I just did the math…and yes, I would. Current futures trading is around $80 a barrel…so multiply times 4.9, carry the one, round off the little bits, and Bob’s your uncle, I’m worth $392,000,000! But who is counting?)

On the other hand, I have to say that despite weeks of covering this situation and tooling up and down the Gulf, I still don’t have any real sense of how much damage this stuff did. In one instant I see pictures of the worst hit areas and cringe. I’ve seen the oiled birds, the closed beaches, and the off-limits fisheries. But then I’ve also seen miles of beach in which there is really no practical sign of a problem. At some points I’ve braced for complete devastation, at others I’ve wondered what all the fuss is about.

Now, the economic damage I get. Absolutely there were thousands of people who make a living off of fishing or tourism or related businesses that were just pounded by this. Some of them may never recover, and even some who do will spend years in the process. For them this has been undeniably terrible. Add to that, even for some who ultimately had nothing to do with the oil, the ripple effect of people afraid to come down or eat Gulf seafood could still hit hard for a long time. (BTW, I’ve have been eating Gulf seafood relentlessly throughout this ordeal and the only problem I’ve seen is somewhat limited supplies in some places. It is still magnificent and tasty as ever!)

All I’m saying is once the well is finally and completely under control, I hope people in my business and you and you political pals don’t just drop the ball and move on. I’d like to know, for better or worse, what the final tally is on this mess; whether we all sounded the alarm too loudly…or not enough.

I’m off to grab a late dinner and maybe some beignets down by the river. You should so totally be here. We could have a blast. And oysters! Please call if you have a moment, I have something I want to ask you…which is, uh…why have you never called?

Regards,
Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Bob in Indiana

    Tom, I remember during the previous administration how Bush was continuously sighted for being aloof, disengaged, and not interested in the business at hand. We are seeing the same thing with Obama. Much like Bush was to Katrina, Obama has shown very little compassion toward the people affected by this crisis. I can't remember the last time he visited the Gulf. With today's portable technology, you don't have to run the government from Washington D.C. You don't even see Mr. Obama doing the town hall meeting like he once did. Is he afraid he'll be ambushed by questions without his speech writers? My, that teleprompter really comes in handy, doesn't it.

    August 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  2. Tom-Vermillion, Ohio

    Dear Tom Foreman,

    Just a brief note, to let you know I've been 'dipping' into your letters to the President for some time now and I want you to know that you have had a positive effect on me. When I see you and Anderson at different points around the globe, I can see where your 'hearts' are and beg you to keep them there because its the right thing to do. I do believe the President does read your letters as time allows. Thank you for your service and sacrifices. Your moral compasses are right on target.

    Tom-Vermillion, Ohio
    An Ordinary American Citizen.

    August 3, 2010 at 11:19 am |

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