Washington Prowler

Obama’s Gulf Drill

Occupying the Gulf region. Plus: Duel in Las Vegas. Also: Newt means it.

By 7.26.10

The White House has already made the decision to keep virtually all of its BP oil spill personnel in place -- regardless of the situation on the ground and in the Gulf -- through the 2012 election cycle, says a White House source familiar with the planning, with the unstated goal of creating a kind of "Gulf Potemkin Village" that the Administration can use for political effect.

"This is now a political situation, not just environmental, and guys like Rahm [Emanuel] and [David] Axelrod aren't going to let it get out of control again when it is most important to us," says the source.

According to a Department of Homeland Security source, virtually all federal employees deployed to work on the BP oil spill now possess DHS email addresses, regardless of which agency they work for, to ensure coordination. "We are going to keep all of these people on the ground there as long as it is deemed necessary," says the DHS source. "If that's through January 2013, then so be it."

Politico over the weekend posted a story that outlined the White House's political calculations with the oil spill for -- at the least -- the 2010 election cycle, detailing the political personnel deployed mostly to Florida to create the impression that President Obama and his administration are engaged in the issue.

The deployment of political personnel is also telling as more details from the Coast Guard's formal investigation into the early hours and days of the BP Deep Horizon spill are coming to light. "There is a real fear that there is more damaging information about what the White House knew and when they knew about it," says the DHS source. "There is also a real concern that after bashing BP for months, the Obama Administration is going to have change its story yet again."

The White House political cleanup crew is different from the one already in place across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, where a host of Coast Guard, DHS, Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency, and other "alphabet agency" employees are now based, not to mention those working the issue from Washington, D.C.

"The White House wants to be able to point to all of those staffers during the 2012 cycle to serve as a reminder of just how catastrophic this spill was, and how much time and energy the Administration has put into it," says the DHS source. "Of course, it won't be clear that any of those people are even needed down there at that stage of the game, but they will be there regardless."

This year's dueling conservative-Marxist conferences in Las Vegas revealed the marked challenges the Republican and Democrat parties face in the upcoming mid-term 2010 elections.

At the NetRoots Nation conference at the unionized Rio Hotel, the far left activists sought to re-energize their base, which had already begun to show signs of strain and disillusionment at last year's conference in Pittsburgh. Disgraced Obama environmental policy advisor Van Jones was a headline at Friday's events, speaking to a lukewarm audience that seemed to barely muster the energy to give him a standing ovation. That was a trend for much of the conference's breakout sessions.

A NetRoots attendee connected to ActBlue said her impression was that numbers were down from last year and were markedly down from the 2008 conference. NetRoots organizers, however, were more than happy with the turnout. Meanwhile, sources from the rival Americans for Prosperity (AFP) say they believe their overall registration numbers indicated that they had surpassed NetRoots numbers for the first time since the two organizations began holding dueling conferences.

When Jones said that progressives were living in a time of "hope and heartbreak," it was difficult to tell if he was referring to the heartbreak progressives claim to be feeling over a disappointing Obama and Democrat political season or the hope that was being felt across the Vegas Strip at the free-market Venetian resort, where employees are some of the best paid on The Strip ... and without unionization. There the AFP's RightOnline conference was packed, with Rep. Mike Pence teeing up the crowd on Friday, followed at dinner by a barn-burner from Rep. Michelle Bachmann.

The highest profile attendee at the AFP conference may have been businessman and radio host Herman Cain, who had a full team traveling with him, including his PAC director. Much of the talk around him is that he intends to formally launch a presidential exploratory committee perhaps as early as this fall. 

When former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he was serious about considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination, he wasn't kidding. Gingrich -- as he did in 2007 and 2008 -- has a number of his advisers looking at the 2012 race. "Newt doesn't do anything without really peeling back the layers of the onion in a very analytical way," says a former staffer for Gingrich's American Solutions. "There is no way someone like him could look at this political environment and not see a good opportunity to run." Gingrich has gone so far in his planning, according to sources, that he has undertaken a series of test videos that would be used to re-introduce himself on a political level to voters. He has also had his legal team working out just what parts of his "Newt.org" organization, which includes his American Solutions organization, can be leveraged for an exploratory or full-blown presidential campaign.


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