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UK politicians blast Obama's rhetoric against BP as "petulance."
LONDON — While U.S. President Barack Obama returned to the Gulf Coast to track the growing devastation caused by the blown-out BP oil well, BP's board of directors huddled behind closed doors here Monday to prepare for a showdown with the Obama administration in Washington on Wednesday.
A corporate spokesman for the global oil company headquartered here in London said there would be no comment on what was discussed at the BP board meeting, then added: "The chairman and senior management are now preparing for their very important meeting at the White House on Wednesday."
In advance of that meeting, Obama is to deliver a speech from the Oval Office today at 7 p.m. in which he is expected to call for BP to establish an escrow account to cover billions of dollars for the cleanup and the economic fallout the spill has caused. If Obama wanted to get the attention of BP's senior management with his seriousness of purpose and his comments last week about finding out whose "ass to kick," he has succeeded beyond Rahm Emanuel's wildest expectation.
Obama’s populist ire against “British Petroleum,” as the White House consistently refers to the company even though it has officially changed its corporate name to just BP, has threatened to overwhelm all other aspects of the story as it is reported here. After his comments Monday comparing the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster to Sept. 11, BP's share price that had seemed to bottom out and even gain a bit during the day plummeted even further.
Not everyone in Britain is pleased that the president has inserted himself into the situation with such heated words, particularly not British Conservatives like the foppish mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and a crusty parliamentarian known as Lord Tebbit, who perhaps over-employed the alliterative by calling Obama’s words “partisan political presidential petulance.”
Norman Tebbit, who served in three cabinet positions in Margaret Thatcher's government, and who remains one the most vociferous old guard Conservatives, railed against Obama in his weekly blog for the Daily Telegraph, writing, "The whole might of American wealth and technology is displayed as utterly unable to deal with the disastrous spill — so what more natural than a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan political Presidential petulance against a multinational company?"
(The tenor of Lord Tebbit’s tantrum was torn apart, tattered and trashed by Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report. Very funny. Check it out here.)
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Tebbit then raised the temperature, adding, "It is time that our American friends were reminded that they sang a different tune when the American company Union Carbide killed many thousands of Indians at Bhopal. Not to mention when the American company Occidental killed 167 people on a North Sea oil rig in 1988."
Whether the comparisons are relevant or fair is beside the point. What comes shining through is a feeling of deep resentment among many in the British establishment about the verbal assault on what was — the day before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded — Britain's largest company.
Since that day, April 21, BP has seen more than 40 percent of its market value evaporate. That's about an $82 billion dollar decline in six weeks.