GOP candidates, now whittled down to four, have been queried ad nauseam about the sputtering economy, job growth, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, immigration reform, international relations, national security and — oh, yes — the performance of President Barack Obama, the Democrat they want to expel from the White House in November.
Over and over, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has faced questions about his state’s version of health-care reform — Romneycare, it’s called — and the contents of his tax returns. Newt Gingrich has been assailed by questions concerning his personal life and his tumultuous time as House Speaker. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have occasionally faced their share of difficult questions.
Yet, according to the Washington Post, here’s how many debate questions candidates have faced concerning the 2010 BP oil spill and its lingering effects in the Gulf of Mexico — two.
Michele Bachmann fielded one of those questions. Santorum answered the other.
As Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies wrote last week, those two questions and their answers equate to only 307 spoken words out of the 328,000 words uttered by candidates and moderators during the 19 GOP debates already held. Those words, Sturgis explained, would fill 800 pages in 11-point type.
As Alabamians well know, the washed-up oil blobs and damaged fishing and shrimping habitats were huge stories for the Gulf Coast in 2010 and 2011. Still are, in fact. Up and down the coastlines of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, examples of successes and failures in the rebuilding of habitats and human livelihoods are evident.
Gulf seafood is safe to eat. Tourism is booming in most places. There are positive stories to tell.
Yet, amid those positive stories are two realities: (1.) the physical restoration of the Gulf Coast is not complete, and (2.) not all coastal residents affected by the spill have regained their pre-spill lives.
One example: A 2011 report by the University of South Alabama showed that 35 percent of students at Bryant High School in Irvington say they were personally affected or traumatized by the spill. That number was 20 percent higher than it was in 2010, the year the spill occurred.
Given the facts, it’s ludicrous to assume the restoration of the Gulf Coast and its future drilling prospects would be A-list questions during the Republican debates. The need to revitalize the nation’s economy and spur substantive job growth overshadows everything.
Yet, it’s not too much to ask for moderators to see this topic as vital to the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans in Gulf Coast states. America needs to know where these candidates stand, so ask them: What could your administration do to prevent a BP-like catastrophe from happening again?