Obama says BP oil spill impact ‘echoes’ 9/11; relative of WTC victim calls President ‘off-base’
New York Daily News
The endlessly spewing oil rig off the Gulf Coast – like the terror attacks of 2001 – will influence the nation’s future long after the crisis passes, the President said in a provocative Oval Office interview with Politico.
“In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11, I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come,” Obama added in language that underscored his new sense of urgency about the disaster.
The interview, conducted Friday, was released Sunday – and sparked an instant debate among some 9/11 family members.
“I think he’s off-base,” said ex-FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches, whose son died at the World Trade Center. “These were terrorist attacks, these 9/11 murders, not something caused by people trying to make money.”
Sally Regenhard, who also lost a son, said she could see some validity to the comparisons.
“Just like on 9/11, there were no plans for emergency preparedness, coordination of response,” she said. “It’s a failure of the system and the government. I’m not offended by the comment.”
But Jack Lynch, whose firefighter son Michael was killed in 2001, felt Obama misspoke.
“To compare an environmental accident, if that’s what you call it, to a premeditated terrorist attack is ridiculous,” he said. “Politicians have no sense of reality.”
Obama wasn’t the first to draw parallels between the terrorist attacks and the still-spreading Gulf of Mexico spill, with columnists and others describing the disaster as an “environmental 9/11.”
Obama’s take on the crisis came as he prepared to give BP an ultimatum this week: Show me the money – or else.
Obama will deliver a prime-time speech tomorrow and face down BP executives a day later to show them, and his legion of critics, that he means business.
White House officials said they want BP to hand over billions of dollars to an escrow account run by an independent third-party panel.
The aim is to guarantee payment of the mountain of claims left behind by the endless stream of oil gushing in the gulf.
“We want to make sure that money is escrowed for the legitimate claims that are going to be, and are being made, by businesses down in the gulf – people who’ve been damaged by this,” senior adviser David Axelrod said on NBC‘s “Meet the Press.”
And if BP doesn’t set aside the cash voluntarily, officials signaled, Obama is ready to unleash Justice Department lawyers to go after it.