Can’t you just say “yes” or “no”?

This is going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness rant about the BP oil spill. With a little Rand Paul thrown in 🙂

What got Rand Paul into trouble this week? Sure, he now blames Rachel Maddow, but a) he went on her show a year ago & announced his candidacy for that Senate seat on it and b) he agreed to go on it again after winning the GOP nomination and after already making waves about his Civil Rights stance in a newspaper interview. He was naive to think she would not ask about it. It was his chance to clarify things. But all he did was make it worse – muddy the waters even more. Why? Because he refused to answer a question either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. After almost 20 mins of that and never getting past that topic since he refused to give a one word answer, he became the talk of the DC media. The next morning he finally figured it out and gave the one word answer he should have given, well, heck, back in the newspaper interview before the primary even!

Something similar is happening around the White House and the BP oil spill. I know I am one of maybe a handful of people who listen in on the press briefing with Robert Gibbs as often as I can. Usually I marvel at his ability to parry and dodge and answer without really answering because I get it. Well, not every time. Sometimes I wish he would answer more directly, but it is usually the Press Secretary’s job to spin away as much as possible because tipping the President’s hand on certain negotiations with congress or a foreign country would derail the process. And often I end up rolling my eyes at the questions the reporters ask. But Friday it was flipped around. I was quite pleased with the probing questions being asked and I was irritated as all heck at the dodging and weaving that Gibbs was dishing out. Then, I saw a tweet from one of the BEST WH correspondent’s on twitter – @WestWingReport – saying that they had been called into the WH Press office after the briefing and basically scolded for the BP questioning! What? No, I’m sorry Robert, but you don’t get to dictate what gets asked and not. Why do you think we were so frustrated with the last administration that handed out press credentials to ‘friendly’ reporters prepared with fluff questions to make life easier for them?

Why is it so hard to say yes or no to these queries?

  1. Is everyone who could possibly have expertise in capping the pipeline on the job?
  2. Is the Govt prepared in the event that we need to completely take over if we are not satisfied with BP’s efforts?
  3. IS the President satisfied with BP’s efforts? (on this one he said the President was not satisfied with *anyone’s* efforts at this point since the well was not capped.) Ok, then. See the questions above! Answer them! (he didn’t)

He was queried on an incident reported on 3 days ago about some local CBS reporters who were kicked off the coastline and threatened with arrest by the Coast Guard. When asked on what grounds since they were reporters and were supposed to be able to cover the story, the Coast Guard replied “BP said so!” Excuse me? BP?? Since when is BP running our law enforcement? So Gibbs was asked it the WH knew about this and had given the OK for the Coast Guard to cede control over the shoreline to a private company?? Gibbs claimed he had not heard of this incident (I didn’t completely buy that given it had received pretty widespread coverage over the last couple of days) and since he didn’t know about it he couldn’t comment. To me, that just showed they were out of touch with the day to day goings on if they didn’t know what had happened.

Look – I know that the best experts on this situation probably ARE oil industry workers. I would hope that at this point we have more than just BP contractors there. I’d hope that Shell & Exxon and anyone else remotely related to deep sea drilling are there helping out. I realize that the bigger issue is that there was NOT proper regulation of the whole industry. That drilling at that depth was allowed without proper safety precautions in place and without a truly 100% sure fire plan on what to do should the worst happen. They are all clearly flying blind here. But if the federal government is “overseeing” the process, then it should not take 10 days for their order of a live video camera feed of the site to be put in place. The people “overseeing” the process should not look as confused as the company responsible. They should not appear out of touch and entirely too trusting.

The answer to #1 should be an emphatic “Yes” and then go ahead and list who is down there working on it and who is providing regular (daily) reports to the President and the press.

The answer to #2 should be an emphatic “Yes” with the steps the government could legally take to step in if necessary. And if an executive order or emergency legislation needs to be enacted in order for the Feds to take over, then state that and state that YES, they are prepared to do that if necessary.

The answer to #3 better be YES, and if NO, then what is the deadline for BP to get its act together or else enact #2.

THAT would show the public who is in charge.

So, come on politicians! It is totally OK, and often completely NECESSARY to give us a definitive answer!! It saves you a lot of heartburn and causes us not to question your leadership abilities.



  1. Well said! Or written, as the case happens to be. I have always wondered if politicians take a college-level course in answer evasion. Sometimes they hedge on even the simplest, non-controversial questions as if it is so ingrained that they don’t know how to give a straightforward yes or no answer.

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