Captain Planet, is he our hero? Gif: Brian Kahn / Getty
Its Barack Obama Book Week. Former presidents’ new book, The Promised Land, dropped on Tuesday, and there’s a lot to pour.
Future President Donald Trump is largely a specter in the book, only appearing very near the end. As Trump’s most famous connection to Obama uses the birther’s false conspiracy theory to gain exposure, Obama recounts his first and frankly bizarre encounter with Trump. Improbably, this is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In his book, Obama writes the following after describing Trump as someone who left traces of bankruptcy, filings, breaches of contract, stiffened employees, and piecemeal funding arrangements in his wake (which , Unfortunately yes):
In fact, my closest contact with Trump had come in the middle of 2010, during the Deepwater Horizon crisis, when he called Ax [adviser David Axelrod] out of the blue to suggest that I give him the responsibility of plugging the well.
There are layers to decompress. First, the story is something told in Axelrods’ memoir in 2015, and Trump admitted that was true, although he said the call was more about building a ballroom in the White House. (Obama notes that Trump actually raised this after being pushed back on the Deepwater Horizon offer.) But in all respects, it seems like something that really happened.
Need I remind you that Deepwater Horizon was the costliest environmental disaster in US history. This happened in 2010, when malfunctions, a series of human and material breakdowns, and lax federal enforcement led to a massive eruption of an oil rig one mile (1.8 km) below the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It caused an estimated loss of $ 61.2 billion for BP, the operator of the platform, killed 11, and the impacts are still ongoing.
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To connect the well, we needed unprecedented expertise. Obama recounts in his book that the chief of the Coast Guard response, Admiral Thad Allen, referred to the well plug operation which was actively dumping millions of barrels of oil into the ocean more like a space mission. To deal with the crisis, Obama deployed then Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, to help him. Teams of BP engineers have been working on the issue. In short, it was not a simple solution and certainly nothing like putting your name on a skyscraper.
Now consider Donald Trump’s batshittery levels offering to lead the charge. There are a lot of things Donald Trump can be blamed for, but the shortage of chutzpah is not one of them. In 2010, Trump was making money from The Apprentice and getting a license for his name after overseeing the failure of Trump University’s Trump Shuttle (which ultimately settled a fraud case of several million dollars), Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka and various casinos. He was clearly not the man for the job. Obama writes that the federal government has worked with citizen volunteers on the cleanup, from deploying dams around the oil to monitoring the spill from the air. Dirty work, of course, but maybe a little more speed trumps than performing the whole operation.
Now, looking back on four years of Trump’s disastrous presidency, it is even clearer how bad things would have been had he been successful in the spill. The United States is in shambles because it has absolutely failed to tackle the coronavirus (which it also caught). He’s attempting one of the craziest coups in history. And he rolled back the safety protections put in place after the spill once he became president.
Had he been in charge of Deepwater Horizon or, God forbid, it had happened under his watch, we would be forced to watch Trump hold press conferences touting beautiful, clean oil spouting from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a nightmare to even consider. With his setbacks and two more months for him in power, there is unfortunately still time for a rehearsal to come true.
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