David Blackburn

In response to Alex Massie 

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Alex Massie has written a thought-provoking post in response to my accusation that Obama’s opprobrium for BP is rooted in desperation and prejudice. Alex and I are agreed that Obama’s rhetoric is foaming because he is desperate politically. That’s no excuse – it is not stemming the disaster and action is required. Already, Republicans are jumping on Obama’s calculation that he can get away with blaming BP. For such a canny politician, it is a high-risk strategy.

It is, of course, coincidence that a British oil company is to blame – although legal action will reveal that a host of international subcontractors are equally liable, or that is what BP’s lawyers will argue. Obama has declared legal war on BP with a criminal negligence investigation (as opposed to a commercial suit – surely a sign of how high the stakes are?) and BP should respond in kind, if only to protect its 37,000 American employees and countless shareholders across the globe.


Alex asserts that none emerge well this affair and I agree, adding that it will only get worse: Obama will be restoring his Presidency and BP will be fighting to preserve its presence in a lucrative market. Fleet Street’s response (mine included) is effused with more than a whiff of resentment about Obama’s wider stance towards Britain. I contest Alex’s assertion that Obama is not motivated by some anti-British sentiment. The very serious claims in his book are entirely unsubstantiated. The return of the Churchill bust was an admittedly small slight, but a slight nonetheless. The episode with Brown was ludicrous, but Obama could have avoided it had he just paid Brown the time of day, as he did other leaders of the G8. His overblown and deliberately divisive comments about a British company have to be seen in this context. The normally cool, calm and collected Obama has displayed raging emotion in condemning BP. Why was he ‘enraged’ for example? Surely more than mere political acting?

Finally, Alex's assertion that I suggest or infer that Obama shouldn't castigate BP while British troops die in an American-led war in Afghanistan is surprising and unworthy of him. Even dyspeptic moments of punditry don't require the waving of the bloody shirt. I suggested that it was wrong of the Obama administration to adjudge as it did on the Falklands dispute in the context of the allied effort in Afghanistan, and the administration’s and America’s principle of standing for self-determined freedom and justice. To my mind, it’s the greatest indication yet of the administration's strategic and diplomatic objectives, and of the President’s hypocrisy. To be fair to Obama, at least he is realistic about the direction the tide is heading.