Obama's nationalist card is uncalled for

Pardon me if I sound like a whining Brit, but is there anyone else who is uncomfortable with the way President Obama and others have started using the nationalist card to deflect attention from themselves during the BP oil spill crisis?

Pardon me if I sound like a whining Brit, but is there anyone else who is uncomfortable with the way President Obama and others have started using the nationalist card to deflect attention from themselves during the BP oil spill crisis?

All of a sudden, it's “British Petroleum”, not BP. Forget the fact that BP hasn't been British Petroleum since 1998 and that it has long since repositioned itself as Beyond Petroleum, Obama and co have deliberately rebranded the ill-fated energy giant in recent days.

Make no mistake, this is a deliberate act. The Obama communications machine doesn't do anything without forethought and careful research, polling and planning.

Perhaps the administration is trying to deflect growing criticism of its own role in the disaster and its cleanup by building on the – rightful – opprobrium aimed at bumbling British BP chief executive Tony “I want my life back” Hayward.

But isn't this more about global business than individual national identities? Eleven workers died following the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. But I can't help thinking back to the Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland in 1988.

The platform, operated by Occidental Petroleum, the fourth-largest US oil and gas company, exploded resulting in the deaths of 167 men. It was one of the worst offshore oil disasters in history. But I don't recall subsequent commentary focusing on the nationality of the company involved. It was a horrendous disaster and the overriding reaction was sympathy for the families involved.

President Obama may actually ultimately come out of the Gulf of Mexico oil crisis smiling, as it is going to help him put the pressure on in trying to push through his climate change and energy bill this year.

But I really don't believe it is necessary for him to start, even if only by osmosis, pushing the blame towards the Brits to achieve his communications objectives.

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