David Blackburn

Obama’s antagonism to BP is rooted in desperation and prejudice

Obama’s antagonism to BP is rooted in desperation and prejudice
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To all bar Tony Hayward, it is clear that BP is finished in America. A Macarthyite degree of opprobrium has been cast against the interloper. As Matthew Lynn notes, BP’s PR flunkies are grovelling across the networks, apologising in that singularly lachrymose British fashion. They should stop demeaning themselves and fight back. BP is to blame for the leak, but it is being demonised by an American President whose desperate populism and prejudice is masquerading as principled leadership; it is the latest British institution to be victimised by Barack Obama.

Owing largely to the demands of the insatiable US market - which Obama has done nothing to abate, despite his green credentials - oil exploration has never been so risky as companies drill in deeper and rougher seas. In these, the dying hours of black gold’s imperium, accidents are frequent. Occasionally, they even beset US oil companies: Exxon Valdez anyone? Let’s be clear, no one wants to pollute the sea; no one wants to see fishing and tourism crippled; though it is debatable that Louisianan fishing and tourism is being unduly hit by this latest environmental disaster, as oil accounts for 80 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.


Barack Obama ignores these current and historical realities by unleashing banal rhetorical flourishes, such as: ‘BP is responsible, BP will pay.’ (Lawyers will debate that contention for years.) Next, disregarding BP’s loud remorse, he castigated the company’s directors for ‘trying to point the finger at everyone other than themselves.’ His coup de grace was to call a fatuous criminal investigation into BP. The indignant, fuming President then softened his image by posing with Diana-like despair on a sunlight beach, gazing into the middle distance above the blackened sea. None of which has stemmed the disaster. Powerless to act and unpopular, his arsenal's a bland granary of brimstone and photo-ops; the mid-terms must worry the visiers surrounding the king.

Obama’s victory was a great historical moment. British goodwill and respect for the significance of Obama’s achievement has been repaid with scorn. Hundreds of British troops have perished and been maimed fighting an American war that Obama has escalated. The sacrifices of his closest and most willing ally were marked by asserting that Argentina has a right to the Falkland Islands. Ironic really - given that the islanders voted overwhelmingly to remain British, and that Obama recently told West Point graduates that ‘America succeeded by steering those currents (of cooperation) in the direction of liberty and justice’.

That’s hypocrisy and hypocrisy is bred of prejudice. Obama dislikes Britain and the British. Dreams From My Father was an exercise in Anglo-phobia: none of the accusations therein have been substantiated yet they colour his diplomacy. His immediate return of the Churchill bust that sat in the Oval Office was a slight but subtle statement of intent. Obama deals with British politicians contemptuously. No matter how absurd, foreign politicians deserve respect on the international stage: having Gordon Brown chase around after him was as callous as it was hilarious. In the case of BP, contempt has become hectoring. Initiating a criminal investigation denotes Obama’s political impotence, vanity and arrogance. His divisive conduct offends the dignity of his office, but it also shows a complete disregard for the globalised world in favour of narrow political interest. BP should fight back, both for its British and American shareholders and employees - the leader of the free world has other things on his mind.