[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/05/t1.bpoilwellsurface.jpg width=300 height=169]Tom Foreman | BIO
As the Gladiators of the Gulf finally drove their drilling mud beneath the sea floor this week, chasing that rogue column of oil back into its deep lair and pinning it there, you could almost hear the cheers and high-fives slapping across the water. BP, in bad need of a win, finally had one. The Obama Administration, chafing over criticism like a doughnut lover in bicycle shorts, jumped fast to declare a limited victory; Press Secretary Robert Gibbs saying "many of the doomsday scenarios… have not and will not come to fruition."
From the outset, the White Housers have insisted they took quick, decisive action; and BP officials have aired ads depicting themselves as a cross between Mother Teresa and John Muir for their dedicated care for the coast and all its inhabitants. To hear them tell it, you’d almost expect to see Thad Allen and Doug Suttles walk across the water back to shore.
But people who actually live on the Gulf have experienced a very different spill and response than the one ballyhooed by the spinmeisters. For all those pledges of transparency, many feel they were misled and kept in the dark much of the time. A survey of 1200 Gulf residents by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University produced some startling, and bleak results.
Among people living within ten miles of the water, one-in-three parents say their kids have shown either physical or psychological signs of difficulties related to the spill. One-in-five folks say they have lost income. Somewhat less than one-in-ten say they have lost a job. And about one-in-four think they will ultimately have to move away from the coast as the lasting impact of the spill becomes known. Trust in elected leaders, especially at the federal level, is as tepid as a tidal pool.
To be sure, I have met some people on the Gulf who have strongly praised BP for its efforts, but the Administration? Not so much. Maybe I just missed them.
Perhaps in time some enterprising researcher will discover how government and corporate big wigs came up with such a wildly different narrative of what happened here than the one being told by regular folks. But for now their tales are as different as oil and water.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with