August 6th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

A tale of two spills

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/05/t1.bpoilwellsurface.jpg width=300 height=169]Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

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.

Filed under: Gulf Oil Spill • Opinion • President Barack Obama • Tom Foreman
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Margie L. Battle

    Will the first initial plug work and for how long before it spills into the waters again?

    August 9, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  2. Xposeu

    Looks like they are pulling the plug way to early. Anderson Cooper should visit the boats in the Pensacola Pass performing "Prop Wash." There are boats that are beached in the pass and then using the engines and propulsion from the props, the engines are accelerated while the boat can not move. This causes the large tar patties to be exposed and are retrieved in to contamination bags and disposed of. So, now we know where the oil has gone, it is sinking to the bottom and covered by the surf. I guess the first major storm into the gulf will have to be the awakening for our gullible government.

    August 8, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  3. ambria

    I do not see how anyone could be giving high-fives they are just doing their job. We should not be congratulating anyone on a job well done. All they did was fix a problem they had to fix. I do not think the administration has hit them hard enough,and we have not hit the administration hard enough for this whole thing starting in the first place.

    August 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    Well, Tom, the Gulf at times was so thick with spilled oil that Suttles & Allen could have probably walked on the Gulf. What a sight that would have been. You are right though – two different stories on the same event – it has made me wonder if I forgot to watch one night and missed Obama's piece in it all.

    August 6, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  5. John B

    Well you have to remember too that BP pretty much lied about the actual amount of oil coming from the well for almost two months

    August 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  6. Robin

    When I read the titile of this story 'A tale of Two Spills', I thought it would also include the spill in Michigan. Please investigate what is going on. This spill is entirely due to neglect, greed, and total disregard for the people, and wildlife who inhabit Michigan. There is solid proof that the pipe is rusted, and made from thin, cheap materials. We are slowly being murdered, and noone seeems to care. Why arent' these criminals being prosecuted for crimes against nature, and humanity?

    August 6, 2010 at 12:35 pm |