Nothing ruins my Sunday more than a pundit defending his or her politician by completely misrepresenting a law and nobody on the program in question bothering to challenge the falsehood.
Such happened on the recent installment of ABC's "This Week" when Democrat strategist Donna Brazile said of President Obama's pathetic response to the Gulf Coast oil spill, "The administration has been constrained by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which basically gives the responsible party the lead role in trying to not only fix the problem, but contain the problem."
Well, why don't we look at the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and see if Brazile was right (video and transcript follow with details about this law and commentary):
ROBERT REICH: But the present spectacle of the Coast Guard asking BP to speed up this clean-up is absurd. I mean, the federal government needs to be in charge. The president needs to be in charge of this. Use BP's expertise. Use BP's resources. But the president must be in charge of all of this. Otherwise, he looks like he's just standing on the sidelines.
DONNA BRAZILE: Well, the administration has been constrained by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which basically gives the responsible party the lead role in trying to not only fix the problem, but contain the problem. That has been the problem from day one. They've waited for BP to come up with the answers, and we know that BP continues to mislead people.
This is the Overview of the Act (emphasis added):
The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) was signed into law in August 1990, largely in response to rising public concern following the Exxon Valdez incident. The OPA improved the nation's ability to prevent and respond to oil spills by establishing provisions that expand the federal government's ability, and provide the money and resources necessary, to respond to oil spills. The OPA also created the national Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is available to provide up to one billion dollars per spill incident.
In addition, the OPA provided new requirements for contingency planning both by government and industry. The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) has been expanded in a three-tiered approach: the Federal government is required to direct all public and private response efforts for certain types of spill events; Area Committees -- composed of federal, state, and local government officials -- must develop detailed, location-specific Area Contingency Plans; and owners or operators of vessels and certain facilities that pose a serious threat to the environment must prepare their own Facility Response Plans.
Finally, the OPA increased penalties for regulatory noncompliance, broadened the response and enforcement authorities of the Federal government, and preserved State authority to establish law governing oil spill prevention and response.
Now, let's take a look at the expanded National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) (emphasis added):
The OPA was enacted to strengthen the national response system. The
OPA provides for better coordination of spill contingency planning
among federal, state, and local authorities. The addition of the
National Strike Force Coordination Center (NSFCC), for example, is
expected to relieve equipment and personnel shortages that have
interfered with response to oil spills posing particularly significant
environmental or human health threats. Today's rule revises the NCP to
implement a strongly coordinated, multi-level national response
strategy. The national response strategy, contained primarily in
Subparts B and D of the NCP, provides the framework for notification,
communication, logistics, and responsibility for response to discharges
of oil, including worst case discharges and discharges that pose a
substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United
States. The amended NCP further strengthens the OSC's ability to
coordinate the response on-scene and also incorporates a new OPA-
mandated level of contingency planning--Area Committees and Area
Contingency Plans (ACPs). These committees and plans are designed to
improve coordination among the national, regional, and local planning
levels and to enhance the availability of trained personnel, necessary
equipment, and scientific support that may be needed to adequately
address all discharges.
The major revisions to the NCP being promulgated today reflect OPA
revisions to CWA [Clean Water Act] section 311. These changes increase Presidential
authority to direct cleanup of oil spills and hazardous substance
releases and augment preparedness and planning activities on the part
of the federal government, as well as vessel and facility owners and
operators. For example, revised CWA section 311(c) requires the
President to direct removal actions for discharges and substantial
threats of discharges posing a substantial threat to the public health
or welfare of the United States. Revised section 311(d) requires a
number of specific changes to the NCP, including the establishment of
``criteria and procedures to ensure immediate and effective Federal
identification of, and response to, a discharge, or the threat of a
discharge, that results in a substantial threat to the public health or
welfare of the United States.''
Section 311(d) also mandates the establishment of procedures and
standards for removing a worst case discharge of oil and for mitigating
or preventing a substantial threat of such a discharge.
As such, quite contrary to what Brazile stated Sunday, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, along with its changes to the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan, significantly increased the President's authority over oil spills.
As this disaster is now over seven weeks old, surely "This Week" host Jake Tapper should have been aware of the pertinent provisions of this Act. Ditto Reich and George Will who also sat idly by as Brazile made this misstatement.
With this in mind, why didn't anyone challenge her on this? This question especially goes out to Will who in recent months has gone after Bill Maher as well as Brazile for playing fast and loose with the facts in his presence.
I guess George wasn't in the mood for a fight today. Too bad, for it was easy pickings.
Of course, there's a larger issue here, and why this really angers me when it happens.
It's not surprising that a pol or pundit stretches the truth. It happens almost every time these people open their mouths.
However, when their misrepresentations go unchallenged, the viewer assumes the statement was accurate. This is why it's so important for the host or moderator to be on top of things.
Unfortunately, folks watching "This Week" on Sunday were given the wrong impression about this law and its relevance to what's currently happening on the Gulf Coast. As such, the burden was on SOMEONE present to correct Brazile on this point.
Sadly, that didn't occur.
What a shame.