June 5th, 2010
09:08 AM ET
10 years ago

Graham: Oil spill investigation could include president

Washington (CNN) - The Democratic co-chair of President Obama's new oil spill commission says, if necessary, the investigation may very well lead straight to the Oval Office and an interview with president himself.

"The president understands when he appointed us that we had the direction to be as hard nosed, candid, fully engaged as possible, and that's exactly what we intend to do," former Sen. Bob Graham told CNN in an interview Friday.

Graham and former EPA administrator William Reilly, a Republican, were tapped this week to head a seven person commission charged with looking into how the devastating oil spill happened, how the government and BP responded, and how to avoid this again in the future.

The other five members have not yet been named. The commission has been given until the end of the year to finish its work.

"I don't think we can do our job for the American people, and frankly I don't want my name and I don't think Mr. Reilly wants his name associated with anything that's anything other than a full, independent, candid assessment of this horrific event and what we need to do to not leave a legacy for future generations to suffer again," said Graham.

Graham had harsh words for BP's new aggressive advertising campaign featuring the company's CEO Tony Hayward apologizing, and promising to make it right.

"I wish they'd spent the money that they spent on that ad a year ago making certain that their equipment they had out there in the gulf was safe, and they had a plan in place and ready to implement in case there was the kind of emergency that we are now dealing with," Graham told CNN.

When asked if he was suggesting BP's effort is too little too late, Graham replied that it's the "wrong place, wrong priorities."

"The right place was safety and response and the wrong place is trying to engage in a public relations campaign 45 days after the accident," said Graham, who said flat out that he was "angry" about it.

Graham, who served on the Senate Energy and Resources Committee before retiring from the Senate six years ago, conceded that Congress may be culpable, too, in not performing proper oversight.

"I think Congress does bear some responsibility," said Graham. "They created all those organizations such as the Minerals Management Service. There have been some suspicions about credibility, the arms length relationship or lack of that relationship between that agency and the industry for a long time, and maybe Congress wasn't aggressive enough in probing that."

The oil commission co-chair said Congress may be a target too.

"We're going to go wherever the facts take us. If they take us to the White House, if they take us to Capitol Hill, that's where we'll go," Graham promised.

Graham is both the former senator,and former governor of Florida, which is now bracing for oil to wash up on its shores.

"Like most Floridians, I've lived through situations like this," said Graham, reflecting on the many hurricanes that have wreaked havoc on the Sunshine State. "This wasn't nature inflicting its winds on us, this was man failing to take the right kind of precautionary steps to avoid a problem and deal with it."

When he was in the Senate, Graham opposed offshore drilling, but insists he can still approach this investigation with objectivity.

Graham acknowledged presidential commissions are often created to respond to a mishap, but aren't always successful in correcting the problems they're charged with investigating.

"I believe that the kind of people that the president will be appointing to this commission will have the credibility behind our findings, what went wrong, and our recommendations to be persuasive," he said.

"Our worthiness will be determined by what we do. Do we do the kind of solid investigation of what happened and make recommendations clearly focused on the public interest," Graham declared. "That's how we will be judged."

Filed under: Bob Graham • BP • Energy • Obama administration • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Bates

    The president should get some attention. If he had been all over this from the beginning it might have been different. But instead I think he was planning his next vacation with Michelle or reading about the nations best golf courses.

    June 4, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  2. Steve- Illinois

    Don't forget to investigate the federal employees whose job it was to enforce the regulations currently in place! All the blowhard politicians and Obama will be calling for more and more regulations of the oil and mining industries, yet both of these recent accidents could have been prevented, if only the government workers had actually done the jobs the tax payers were paying them to do!!! Instead they will pass more regulations, increasing the costs of extracting coal and oil, which will be passed on to the consumers, and the incompetence, and unaccountability of federal employees will continue on as usual!!!!

    June 4, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  3. jp,michigan

    Investigation should include not only this President but several others and Congress. I blame the Federal government. What kind of regulations and safety measures are in place to protect American and wild life from this type of disaster? How can the Federal government allow oil companies not have safety and secure mechanisms to take place automatically inf this happens? This President and all his motley cruw are not capable to handel this kind or any kind of problem. They move only because of the anger express by the American people and of their own political party.

    June 4, 2010 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  4. Rob_in_MN

    And? Didn't know the President was in the oil business. Oh wait, that was the last President.

    June 4, 2010 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. Padraig

    Where was the President when this all happened. To busy playing golf and vacationing. He did not take sufficient action and know is doing PR work to save face.

    Bush was an oilman but he would have reacted faster than Obama.

    June 4, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  6. Pam

    I do not have a problem with the new BP ads as long as they keep their word and do make it right.
    However, till I can see proof that they will do what is right I am boycotting their stations and products.

    June 4, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  7. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Graham is a good man. One of the few in Congress that did not "retire" to seek Big $ plush lobbyist jobs working for special interests.

    June 4, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  8. Lynn

    And let's hope those pieces of crap, Dick Cheney and George Bush, will be called in to. They and the Republicans are to blame for the Gulf Coast disaster.

    June 4, 2010 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  9. Cynthia - Arkansas

    We had 8 years of oil men running the White House. Repubicans running around yelliing"Drill, Baby, Drill" and when the worst happens it's President Obama's fault? Now you have Vitter and Jindel howling wanting MORE drilling. People need to point their fingers at the people that lobbied for this in the first place. I'm truly sorry this happened in President Obama's term and not George Bush. It would have been poetic justice if that had of happened. Thank God we didn't have McCain and Palin in charge. Think about that!

    June 4, 2010 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    It will be interesting to contrast this investigation with the 9/11 Commission's interviews with Bush and Cheney, who would not do so under oath or allow any recording of the proceedings.

    June 4, 2010 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  11. Ben

    Yes, Mr. Graham. It very well may lead to the Oval Office. The Oval Office of Bush/Cheney. Dick Cheney met with the Oil Companies for a 100 days. What was that meeting about? Mean while.....The Republicans want to launch an investigation on the W.H. jobs offers. But, not on BP, Transoceans and Hallitbuton. The GOP only investigate thing that help them, not the American people.

    June 4, 2010 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  12. ib

    The only response this great president has made is to use it to promote his green agenda. If we could drill on land and not have to go so deep in the sea to drill we wouldn't be facing this problem. Tree huggers blame Bush all you want but I blame you; we have to have the oil and coal until the alternative energy sources are available which I am all for but until then people need to wake up and see it makes a lot better sense to drill on land and in Al. but I know the far left will never agree to that.

    June 4, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  13. Four and The Door

    It all sure sounds good. I do hope we see an objective evaluation. In order for this to have happened there must have been problems throughout the entire system that was supposed to protect against this ever happening: regulation, design, operation and response.
    The answer may be that the industry in general right now is just not yet capable of doing this kind of operation. If that's the right answer I hope they can get to it and admit that.

    June 4, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  14. librarian

    So if I understand correctly President Obama is responsible for the explosion and the leak ? Well it is raining now and you know what ? What is President Obama doing about it ??? I'd like to know.

    June 4, 2010 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  15. Robert Wooller

    You can bet that if it includes Obama, intelligence and and fairness. But I have to say his response to the oil disaster has been slow. Graham is totally correct on PR. And now they may have a Cheney worker, it will be a disaster still further. Obama needs to do what he did with healthcare and the banking sector, and pass legislation to sue BP for everything he can get.

    June 4, 2010 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  16. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The only president that should be investigated is the president of BP. Stop the none sense and hold BP accountable.

    June 4, 2010 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  17. JJ in NY

    Open and transparent ?

    Not this White House......

    Old "Stonewall" Obama will never offer the truth or surrender the facts .

    June 4, 2010 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  18. phoenix86

    THE best line: Obama to BP: "Don't nickel and dime us".

    Imagine, financial advice from someone who is creating record deficits, borrowing from everyone, and wasting resources. LMAO!

    June 4, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  19. Marge

    Of course all the records show the white house responded in a timely manner and the commission will show that. BUT show crumbs as Bachmann, Palin, Rush, and the 24 hour republican infomercial channel will deny this. Heck they always do. They would blame every disaster since the president was born on him if it didn't make them look more stupider than they are.

    June 5, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  20. JinnJinx

    Get used to it. There will be many more investigations to come yet, regarding the conduct of the community organizer.

    June 5, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. JD

    Phoenix86 you are either short on the brain side or living in seclusion for the last 9 years. You should move in with JJ. President Obama has been open about issues more then any other President. Notice we haven't had our country bombed under him. We defused it before it could happen. When the oil incident first happened, President Obama responded to it and has held steady with his stance. This is not another Katrina incident like a former President had and did nothing about.

    June 5, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  22. Jeff - Grants Pass Oregon

    1. The people defending President Obama are the same people that were "outraged" at President Bush during Katrina.

    2. What can the government really do at this point other than be more proactive in clean up (which I haven't seen)

    3. Why don't we stop wasting resources on looking for blame at the moment and worry more about stopping, and cleaning up this catastrophe. There will be plenty of time to point fingers once it's mitigated.

    June 5, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  23. emma

    G W Bush's alliances with Big Oil should be investigated.

    June 5, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |