Usually, the crazy rantings of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann can be dismissed as the norm and easily ignored. But on May 5, Olbermann gave a glimpse of an obsession with former Vice President Dick Cheney - a man that has been out of office for 471 days - that was just too bizarre to let go.
Although Olbermann didn't outright absolve the Obama administration for not responding quick enough to the BP oil spill, he channeled the blame in a strange direction.
"The effort to label the Gulf oil spill Obama's Katrina appears to have sputtered, even though, as we will explain, Mr. Obama's administration certainly did allow BP to bypass environmental requirements," Olbermann said. "In our third story tonight, there is a growing pool of evidence, saying nothing of the oil, suggesting a far more apt name for this spill, ‘Cheney's Katrina.'"
Olbermann admitted Obama was somewhat culpable for the spill since his Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, exempted BP from certain regulatory requirements. But to Olbermann, that's not where the true focus should be.
Olbermann went to a 2000s-era well and determined that, since Halliburton had a degree of culpability, former Vice President Dick Cheney's association with the company over a decade ago made it appropriate to call this "Cheney's Katrina," a charge his MSNBC colleague Chris Matthews flirted with earlier in the day.
"So why ‘Cheney's Katrina?' His former company, Halliburton, led by his former protégé, CEO David Lesar, did the cementing to seal the deepwater well, a process families of the dead now claim led to the fatal blow-out. Halliburton confirming it finished cementing only 20 hours before the damn thing blew. Just like Halliburton had just finished cementing this Australian well when it blew on August 21st of last year, causing what is now called the Montara spill. A government inquiry still underway there, but zeroing in on the cementing process."
Then Olbermann found another tie - an incident that he alleges took place in 2001, in which Cheney and oil executives conspired to not require oil wells to have acoustic switches.
"Almost immediately after taking office, Vice President Cheney began meeting with more than 100 oil executives, compiling a wish list of things they wanted," Olbermann expounded. "One thing the industry did not want was mandatory acoustic switches, which can shut wells remotely when blowout preventers fail. The administration knew preventers fail because the MMS [Materials Management Service] found hundreds of incidents in which they did. But it reversed a Clinton era decision requiring the essential acoustic backups, calling them too costly, and those faulty blowout preventers a fail safe."
Olbermann's final evidence for Cheney;s culpability is a 2007 report that "downplayed" the odds of a deepwater spill - a report approved by a man that was an intern for Cheney back in the early 1980s
"And the MMS report downplaying the odds of a deepwater spill, it was done back in 2007, signed off on by then director Randal Luthi, a Wyoming Republican, who goes back almost 30 years with Dick Cheney, to 1982 when he was an intern for Dick Cheney," Olbermann said.
This conclusion was even a little much for Kieran Suckling, the director of a lefty environmental group called the Center for Biological Diversity, who also appeared on Olbermann's program.
"You know what? Cheney's not going to change," Suckling said. "He's old news. Obama can. And I think if we recognize that Obama erred in putting Salazar in charge of this critical agency, a man with deep, deep ties to the oil industry. And secondly he erred in listening to Salazar and opening up the Atlantic Coast, the eastern Gulf Coast of Mexico, and the Arctic in Alaska to new offshore oil drilling. That was a mistake."
Suckling urged the president to reverse course on plans to open these areas up for drilling.
"The good news is the president can reverse course," Suckling continued. "We're early in that process. He can do that. He can reform the Mineral Management Service. And frankly, he can ask Ken Salazar to step down in the wake of this crisis. So there's a lot of opportunities for the president to fix what's going on out there."