June 9, 2010 12:29:00 PM
Much of the news swirling around BP''s oil spill of late is about who and what has shown up, and who and what hasn''t.
What hasn''t shown up is oil -- at least in Mississippi. This is the message Gov. Haley Barbour continues to shout from the rooftops, even as oily sludge and tar blobs smear Louisiana wetlands and begin to appear on Alabama and Florida beaches.
"Our tourist season has been hurt by the misperception of what''s going on down here," Barbour said on Fox News Sunday this week. "The coast is clear: Come on down."
Just where BP''s oil is, and where it might turn up next, is as tough to predict as where BP''s executives themselves might be.
We know where they weren''t on Tuesday -- at a Mississippi House committee hearing seeking answers about the spill. Instead of sending at least one company representative to answer questions, they sent a letter saying no one could make it, and can we reschedule? (BP has more than 96,000 employees.)
To BP''s credit, their excuse for the no-show in front of Mississippi lawmakers was that they wanted to send someone among their 96,000 who could actually answer questions, a number apparently so few not one could be spared.
At least they didn''t send BP spokeswoman Liz Castro, mainly because she doesn''t work for BP anymore after her lack of ability to answer questions posed to her by the Pensacola City Council a couple weeks ago.
"Castro remained bubbly and upbeat amid the council''s fiery insults, promising she would get them experts to answer their questions and get back to them," the Pensacola News Journal reported. She was sacked after a video from the meeting went viral.
BP''s not around, but Barbour was at the House meeting, again stressing that we don''t have much oil, but if we did, we''d be ready.
Yet the states that do have oil are already fighting for resources, which makes me wonder what happens if more shows up, which it inevitably will (thousands of gallons have spewed out of the hole as you''ve been reading this, despite BP''s efforts to capture an as-yet undetermined fraction of it).
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has some oil, but some of the booms he thought he had to catch it were moved to Louisiana by the U.S. Coast Guard. Louisiana has Gov. Bobby Jindal, the governor who''s shouted the loudest. Louisiana also has some oil-covered pelicans and lots of TV cameras.
In other showing-up-not-showing-up news, the head of the NAACP, Benjamin Todd Jealous, showed up on the Mississippi coast on Tuesday to criticize Barbour for not showing up to last Friday''s photo op in Louisiana with President Barack Obama. (The meeting included Jindal, Riley, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Barbour was noticeably absent.)
"I''m sorry, but when the president comes to your state and the people in your state are sort of facing this sort of danger to their livelihood people are facing here, you come down to meet with him and you figure out how to help them," the national president of the NAACP, told a Biloxi television station.
Barbour''s not showing up to the Obama camera festival is in line with his message: We don''t have a problem. Nothing to see here. But to think that Barbour isn''t in the loop is ludicrous.
One thing we know Barbour can do, is take charge during a disaster, which is starting to wash up all around us. We''ll see if he shows up along with it.
Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.