On Thursday's Good Morning America on ABC, co-host George Stephanopoulos laid blame on BP and Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen for mishandling the Gulf oil spill response but depicted the Obama administration as having done everything it could. In contrast, on the CBS Early Show, guests from both sides of the aisle gave the President a 'C' grade for his response.
At the top of Good Morning America, Stephanopoulos described how BP CEO Tony Hayward would be facing a "public execution" in Thursday's congressional hearings and how Michigan Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak promised to "slice and dice" Hayward. In a report that followed, correspondent Jonathan Karl furthered the theme of courageous Democrats standing up to the big oil villain: "Tony Hayward may be the most hated man in America. And he's heading right into a buzz saw of congressional outrage. In his prepared testimony, Hayward declares, 'I am deeply sorry.' But the chairman of the committee says that's not enough." A clip of Democratic committee chairman Henry Waxman was played.
Minutes later, Stephanopoulos interviewed Louisiana Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser and wondered: "...with everything the President and BP announced this week, do you think this is on the right track now?" After Nungesser expressed doubt about local fisherman being reimbursed for financial losses and a lack of organization in the response, Stephanopoulos deflected any criticism away from President Obama and suggested another target: "The White House has approved the building of berms, they've sent the boom down there, Admiral Allen is on the scene every day. Are you saying he is not giving you the help you need? And do you think he should keep his job?"
Nungesser replied: "I don't know if it's Admiral Allen. I don't know if the chain of command. Something's not working." Stephanopoulos pressed further: "So how does it get done? Is Admiral Allen the right man for the job right now?" The headline on-screen during the segment read: "Desperation On the Gulf; Residents Want More Action."
Meanwhile, on the Early Show, co-host Harry Smith invited Republican strategist Dan Bartlett and Democratic strategist Rob Zimmerman to grade President Obama's handling of the disaster. Bartlett replied: "Well I think, Harry, anything above maybe a C-minus would be difficult to score." Smith joked: " 'Gentleman's C,' we've heard that before." Zimmerman actually graded on the same curve: "Harry, I'd have to agree with Dan. I'd give him a C on this, a C at this point." Unlike the more generic ABC headline, the on-screen headline on CBS read: "Disaster in the Gulf: Day 59; What's Next Step for Obama Administration?"
Barlett later questioned the wisdom of the White House using the crisis to push controversial cap-and-trade energy legislation. Smith agreed with that concern, asking Zimmerman: "...you have to confess....At the end of the speech he says, 'Well now it's time for us to think about energy policy and this is a perfect, perfect jumping-off point,' was that, as you watched, were you thinking, 'Boy that's a good idea,' or were you thinking, 'Not now, not now!'"
Zimmerman argued: "But unless we, in fact, put in place an aggressive energy policy, we run the risk of this tragedy happening all over again." Smith agreed: "That goes without saying." However, he reiterated: "But from a political standpoint, it's not as if he's saying, 'Okay, I've solved all the problems, I have got the bully pulpit, I've got the momentum. Now's the time to jump on this.'"
On Tuesday, while the Early Show and NBC's Today challenged White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on the administration's response, former Democratic strategist Stephanopoulos lobbed softballs to the Obama staff member.