Is time off allowed during a mammoth oil spill crisis? Depends…

June 21, 2010

BP CEO Tony Hayward takes time off to watch his yacht race in British waters, President Barack Obama goes golfing over the Father’s Day weekend. OIL-SPILL/

Is that acceptable when the BP oil spill, the worst in U.S. history and a huge environmental disaster, is entering a third month in the Gulf of Mexico?

Well, depends on who you talk to.

The White House on Monday made a cutting remark about Hayward’s yacht trip: “Look, if Tony Hayward wants to put a skimmer on that yacht and bring it down to the Gulf, we’d be happy to have his help,” White House spokesman Bill Burton said at the daily media briefing. 

A BP spokeswoman had said Hayward was spending time with his son after being away from his family for much of the past two months.

Hayward made few friends on the Gulf coast after saying that he wanted his life back, and Burton couldn’t resist a small dig at that comment — “It’s clear that he has. But what’s important to us is that the people in the Gulf get their lives back. It’s not so easy for them to just take a weekend away and forget about everything that’s happening down there.”

Some Republicans sought to equate the Hayward yachting outing with Obama’s day on the golf course. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called on Obama to give up golf and baseball games until the spill is fixed.

But the White House says no one can begrudge Obama a bit of  me time. “I don’t think that there’s a person in this country that doesn’t think that their president ought to have a little time to clear his mind,” Burton said.

OIL-SPILL/ANALYSTSThere’s plenty of oil spill politics to go around. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin over the weekend tweeted: “RahmEmanuel= as shallow/narrowminded/political/irresponsible as they come,to falsely claim Barton’s BP comment is “GOP philosophy”Rahm,u lie”

That was a reference to Republican Texas Congressman Joe Barton saying BP was the victim of a White House “shakedown” for having to set up a $20 billion Gulf oil spill fund.

Burton had a response to Palin lashing out at Emanuel, “I think as a leader of the Republican Party, people would be interested in knowing whether or not she thinks that, as Congressman Barton said, that $20 billion set aside in a fund to pay the claims for people who have been harmed by BP’s oil spill was a shakedown.”

(We think if anyone in Washington can shake off a Palin tweet lashing, it’s probably Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel who’s known for not mincing his words.)

So who do you think is winning the political war of words on the oil spill?

Photo credits: Reuters/Lee Celano (plumes of smoke as oil burned off water surface), Reuters/Sean Gardner (oil-covered pelicans in pen waiting to be cleaned at rescue center)

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