If this is going to be the GOP line of attack against Obama, it's probably going to be effective. Steele doesn't hammer this point; he doesn't have to. We are simply not seeing leadership from the White House on the BP oil cleanup, and that's what people elected Obama for. It doesn't really matter what the president is doing behind the scenes, where we can't see it - this is a massive perception problem, and that makes it a huge political problem:
TAPPER: Certainly, 'accidents happen' is not what you want the Republican response about the BP oil spill--
STEELE: Well, you know, well, look, I mean, it's not -- people shouldn't worry about the Republican response to the BP oil spill. They should worry about the Democrat president's response to the BP oil spill. It is one thing to actually get on the ground and get in front of this thing. It's another thing to sit back and hold BP accountable without helping them, and that's what's happening here. I mean, the federal government should have stepped into this thing immediately, to help make sure that the appropriate steps are being taken by BP, all federal agencies in support of the state government to try to get this thing cleaned up. And here we are, almost a month and a half later, and it's still spilling oil.
TAPPER: How about that, Chairman Kaine? A lot of Democrats are criticizing the Obama administration for not doing enough to hold BP accountable.
KAINE: The administration is doing two things. It starts with BP's accountability, and Rand Paul is wrong. It isn't un-American to hold somebody accountable for a massive environmental disaster of this kind. This isn't just a mistake that we can wash away. BP has got to be accountable for stopping the spill and then cleaning up and paying for the consequences. The administration has had a team working with BP from the very beginning trying to look at ways to help them do it, but it is BP's job. They have to be held accountable, and saying that it's just a mistake that needs to be washed away, or saying, as Rand Paul did, for example, that, you know, we needn't be so worried about things like mining regulations -- I mean, this is a very important role that the government has, to protect the safety of the environment and the health of its citizens. And so, Rand Paul's statements along these lines are very, very troubling, and it's important for Republican leaders to say whether they back this kind of an attitude or not.
I was a civil rights lawyer for 17 years. Rand Paul wrote a letter about the Fair Housing Act to a local newspaper, saying a free society should tolerate private discrimination, even if it means that hate-filled groups exclude people based on the color of their skin.
TAPPER: That's pretty much a direct quote.
STEELE: That's a direct quote, and it's a philosophical position held by a lot of libertarians, which Rand Paul is. They have a very, very strong view about the limitations of government intrusion into the private sector. That is a philosophical perspective. We have had a lot of members go to the United States Senate with a lot of different philosophies, but when they get to the body, how they work to move the country forward matters, and right now, the federal government is not moving forward on BP and cleaning up that mess; the federal government is not moving forward on the economy and creating jobs. There are a lot of -- there are a lot of philosophies, a lot of talk on this hill about folks to get stuff done. What the American people are looking for is what are the concrete steps that this administration has taken to clean up the mess in the Gulf before it gets worse, and to create the jobs that are necessary for people to go back to building the economy the way that everybody wants it to be.