Racine (Wisconsin): US President Barack
Obama lampooned Republicans over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill
and the economy on Thursday, seeking to twist political liabilities
to his advantage as elections loom.
Obama lacerated the opposition party as "out of touch"
and of causing crises by presiding over lax regulation of the
oil and finance industries, in a significant sharpening of his
In midwestern Wisconsin, on the latest leg of a tour
designed to highlight his effort to cut long unemployment
lines, Obama said that despite multiple challenges, nothing
was more important than beating the "great recession."
The president cited a gaffe by a leading Republican
lawmaker who said the US government`s hardline tactics were a
"tragedy" for BP, to lambast the opposition party ahead of
November`s congressional polls.
He said some Republicans opposed raising the legal cap on
liabilities that BP must pay above clean-up costs after
America`s worst environmental disaster and a USD 20 billion BP
escrow fund for businesses victimized by it.
"The top Republican on the energy committee apologized to
BP ... that we had made them set up this fund," Obama said at
a town-hall meeting.
"He called it a tragedy that we had made them pay for the
destruction that they had caused .... the tragedy is what the
people of the Gulf are going through right now.
"That`s the tragedy. And our government has a
responsibility to hold those who caused it accountable. They
want to take us backwards. We want to move forwards."
Democrats are mercilessly using since-retracted comments
by Republican Representative Joe Barton, who apologized to BP
for the escrow fund, which he called a 20-billion-dollar White
Republicans hit back, accusing Obama of playing a cheap
stunt by using the BP disaster in such a political speech.
"It is unconscionable that President Obama would reduce
the oil crisis and the people of the Gulf to a `talking
point.`" said Republican National Committee chairman Michael
Obama also took aim at John Boehner, who leads
Republicans in the House of Representatives, picking up on an
interview in which he said a White House Wall Street reform
build was tantamount to "killing an ant with a nuclear
"Americans don`t believe the financial crisis was an ant.
They know that it`s what led to the worst recession since the
Great Depression," Obama said.
Boehner hit back, accusing the White House of "childish
"In the Gulf, we don`t yet know what caused the
explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. But what we do
know is that for decades, the oil industry has been able to
essentially write its own rules and safety regulations.
Industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight.
And oil and gas companies were allowed to basically fill out
their own safety inspection forms," Obama said.
"In Washington, nearly a decade of tax breaks for
millionaires and billionaires led to little more than sluggish
growth, a shrinking middle class, your paychecks flat-lined.
Wages and incomes did not go up.
"Even when the economy was growing, it wasn`t growing
for you. For all the party`s moralizing about fiscal
discipline, because it is true that part of what we inherited
is a real significant problem in terms of spending at the
federal level, the economic policies they put in place turned
a USD 237 billion surplus into a USD 1.3 trillion deficit,"
Referring to the Wall Street Reform Bill, Obama said
that the leader of Republicans in the House compared financial
crisis to an ant and I`m quoting here "using a nuclear weapon
to target an ant."
"This is the same financial crisis that led to the
loss of nearly 8 million jobs. The same crisis that cost
people their homes, their life savings."
Obama said there are Republican lawmakers who are
against raising the limit on what companies like BP have to
pay if they cause an environmental disaster.
"A few of them said they were against the USD 20
billion fund that we set up to make sure that workers and
businesses in the Gulf whose livelihoods have been harmed by
the oil spill would get compensation," he said.
"The top Republican on the energy committee apologised
to BP. Did you all read about that? He apologized to BP that
we had made them set up this fund.
Called it "a tragedy" that we had made them pay for
the destruction that they had caused. Now, I got to say, they
pulled it back after -- he meant it, but then they kind of
walked it back," Obama said.