Three days after the Deepwater Horizon spill, the Dutch government offered to send oil skimmers to help scoop the oil off the surface of the ocean, well before it reached the coast. But the Obama administration turned them down. And now we find out why: because of a nitpicky detail in EPA regulations.

The skimmers work by pumping in water mixed with oil, separating the oil out from the water in large tanks, then pumping the clean water back into the ocean. However, because the water pumped back into the ocean would still contain trace amounts of oil, this fell afoul of an EPA regulation that forbids oil-contaminated water from being pumped into the ocean. Under normal circumstances, this is a good thing — but in this circumstance, following this rule to the letter would be asinine. But that’s exactly what an EPA bureaucrat did. And neither President Obama nor anyone else in his administration saw fit to overturn this idiotic decision.

There’s more. In Louisiana, someone had the bright idea of loading a bunch of vacuums onto barges and floating them out onto the oil-laden water to start sucking the oil off the surface. Essentially, they built the world’s largest wet vac. But the Coast Guard stopped them because “[t]he Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.” Again, an idiotic decision made by a low-level bureaucrat not looking at the big picture, that wasn’t overturned by his superiors.

Now, it’s not the federal government’s job to hold your hand and wipe your nose for you, and the most effective response to a disaster is usually the local response. But the least the feds can do is avoid getting in the way!

If Obama wants to persuade the American people to hand over our healthcare to the tender mercies of government bureaucrats, he’s got to get them to do a better job than this.

UPDATE: Same song, third verse.

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