ABC’s Stephanopoulos Sees ‘Stretch’ to Compare Bush/Katrina to Obama/Oil Spill, But Agrees ‘Grandstanding’ by Obama

On Friday’s The O’Reilly Factor on FNC, Good Morning America co-anchor George Stephanopoulos of ABC appeared as a guest and discussed President Obama’s reaction to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. When host Bill O’Reilly asked if some of Obama’s recent attacks on oil companies amounted to "grandstanding," Stephanopoulos seemed to agree and pointed out that, since President Obama took office, his administration has approved "dozens of these projects without getting the proper environmental clearances," and characterized Obama as being "Reaganesque" in distancing himself from the problem: "He was kind of trying to do a little bit of a Reaganesque move there by blaming the federal government and separating himself a bit from the federal government."

But when O’Reilly wondered if a comparison could be made between the "lateness" of President Obama’s reaction to the oil spill and of President Bush’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina, Stephanopoulos saw such a comparison as a "stretch," but left open the possibility that, over the long term, if Obama does not deal with the problem adequately, he could be blamed by the public and the outcome would be seen as "the President’s responsibility":

BILL O’REILLY: But is it, is it valid, George, to make a comparison between the lateness of the Obama administration – remember, they, BP in the beginning said oh, yeah, we got it under control, and they didn't do much – and the lateness of the Bush administration in Katrina? Is that a valid comparison?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's a stretch because of the differences between the two disasters that you just pointed out. I think that's what makes it a difficult comparison. Certainly the public doesn't make that comparison yet. By this point, President Bush was having solid disapproval from the public. But I think it could get there, which is why the President came out today. Listen, if this is going on for the next several months, if this top hat doesn't work and they've got to build a relief well, and you've got oil spilling out that is going to far exceed the Valdez and any other oil spill in American history, then this will become the President's problem. It will become the President's responsibility. And they're trying to protect themselves from that right now by showing that anger today.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, May 14, The O’Reilly Factor on FNC:

BILL O’REILLY: President Obama getting angry about the oil spill. It took more than three weeks, but the President has apparently had enough.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA CLIP #1: I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter. Yet executives of BP and TransOcean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else.

OBAMA CLIP #2: There's enough responsibility to go around. And all parties should be willing to accept it. That includes, by the way, the federal government. For too long, for a decade or more, there's been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill.

O'REILLY: The question, does Mr. Obama himself bear any responsibility for the greatest environmental disaster in modern history? Joining us now from Washington, the co-anchor of ABC's Good Morning America and former presidential advisor George Stephanopoulos. So-

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Bill.

O'REILLY: -you know, I'm glad the President took his tough stand today. I don't have any use for the oil companies. Anybody who knows, watches the Factor knows that. But it seems to me this might be a little grandstanding by the President because it was his agencies that failed to oversee British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico. Am I wrong?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's why he tried to extend the time line. No, you're not wrong. Since January of 2009, when the President took over, that agency has approved, you know, dozens and dozens of these projects without getting the proper environmental clearances. Now you could say the President’s had a lot of other things going on – he was dealing with an economic crisis, he was a brand new President – but it did happen on his watch. It was interesting. He was kind of trying to do a little bit of a Reaganesque move there by blaming the federal government and separating himself a bit from the federal government. I do think-

O'REILLY: Well, that's what I didn’t get, you know, I mean, look, he can't separate himself, you can't blame this on Bush and Cheney. I mean, some left wingers will try to do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, although that agency has had problems for an awful long time.

O'REILLY: Sure. And it goes back even further into the Clinton administration that there is a cozy relationship and always has been between the American government and the oil companies.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And he's going to have to blow it up, which the President did announce, you know, I guess like three days ago that he would split the agency and say those who are giving the permits cannot be the same people who are enforcing the environmental regulations. But I think this is a bit of an odd kind of natural disaster. It's been moving in slow motion. So far, the public still approves of the way the President has handled it.

O'REILLY: Because they're not engaged with the story. It's not like Katrina.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's right.

O'REILLY: Yeah, they're not engaged because it's a big slick. All right? And it's a slick that nobody sees. It hasn't really come ashore in great numbers yet. And nobody really, it's not like Katrina, where you had people on rooftops screaming to be evacuated and you had thugs breaking into houses. You had action all over the place. But is it, is it valid, George, to make a comparison between the lateness of the Obama administration – remember, they, BP in the beginning said oh, yeah, we got it under control, and they didn't do much – and the lateness of the Bush administration in Katrina? Is that a valid comparison?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it's a stretch because of the differences between the two disasters that you just pointed out. I think that's what makes it a difficult comparison. Certainly the public doesn't make that comparison yet. By this point, President Bush was having solid disapproval from the public. But I think it could get there, which is why the President came out today. Listen, if this is going on for the next several months, if this top hat doesn't work and they've got to build a relief well, and you've got oil spilling out that is going to far exceed the Valdez and any other oil spill in American history, then this will become the President's problem. It will become the president's responsibility. And they're trying to protect themselves from that right now by showing that anger today.