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Cult of the Presidency: Oil Spill Edition

Over at his own digs, Dave Schuler discusses the politics of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster in a post titled “Beyond White House Control.”   I commend it to you in full, but the key ‘graphs are:

All of the experience, expertise, and equipment relevant to dealing with the spill are in the hands of BP and other oil companies. Given the rareness of the occurrence it makes no sense for the federal government to have a trained staff and equipment prepared and on standby just in case and an inexperienced and unprepared federal government intervening in something in which they can only get in the way is absurd.

Mr. Carville is right in that the White House can only lose, however unjust that might be, by what’s going on in the Gulf. There are some things that are simply not under political control and one of them is unfolding right now in the Gulf of Mexico. Like the rest of us all the White House can do now is wait and see if BP’s latest attempt will succeed. If it doesn’t BP will try something else.

But the very concept of the president doing next to nothing about something terrible is anathema to our current political culture.   John Cole yesterday referred us to the online “green room” extension of the roundtable discussion from ABC’s “This Week,” in which George Will talks about the cult of the presidency.  Cato’s Gene Healy wrote a book of that title a couple years ago, inspiring a May 2008 column from Will that I excerpted and commented on in a post titled, oddly enough, “Cult of the Presidency.”

The sad thing about this is that politicians — including Obama himself — feed the demand for an omnipotent, omnipresent, omnicompetent president by making absurd promises during campaigns.  Candidate Obama proclaimed, “I believe in our ability to perfect this nation.”  Presumably, he’s slightly more humble now that he sees the limitations of the office.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    There are times when I just sit back and think how weird it is that we still need one guy to be our chief. Chief as in tribal. There may be 300,000,000 people in our tribe now, but we still look to one.

    That psychology is more appropriate to a natural tribe size of 100-200 people. But, we still have it.

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  2. […] spent the last month in BP’s war room, personally directing the operation, failing to use his Magical President Powers to fix the leak. Then Karl Rove would have written […]

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  3. Kind of makes blaming Bush look even sillier.

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  4. john personna says:

    LOL charles, for what?

    Is this a “get out of jail free” card for every dumb-ass thing GWB did?

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  5. tfr says:

    Yah, Obama is “doing everything humanly possible.” Really? Like what? Standing behind a podium and saying “BAD BAD BP” doesn’t really amount to much, and certainly hasn’t helped end the problem.

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  6. LOL charles, for what?

    Is this a “get out of jail free” card for every dumb-ass thing GWB did?

    Jump to conclusions much?

    Finally, Democrats blame George W. Bush for Gulf oil spill

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  7. Juneau: says:

    There are times when I just sit back and think how weird it is that we still need one guy to be our chief. Chief as in tribal.

    You’re looking for more of a Politburo structure [erhaps?

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  8. Juneau: says:

    There are times when I just sit back and think how weird it is that we still need one guy to be our chief. Chief as in tribal.

    You’re looking for more of a Politburo structure perhaps?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Juneau: says:

    Is this a “get out of jail free” card for every dumb-ass thing GWB did?

    No, it’s a “… and we thought Bush

    was stupid!” card.

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  10. […] it reflects a tendency that is all too common (see, for example, here) that reduces governments to the chief executives alone, as if all that is good or bad about a […]

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  11. […] Now, I would agree that there is little the President can do, but Americans tend to buy into the cult of the presidency and believe that the President is superhuman and can solve any problem in a […]

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  12. […] as James referred to it last week, the Cult of the Presidency. Filed Under: Barack Obama, Doug Mataconis, Environment, Oilspill, Politicians, US Politics […]

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  13. amateurblogger says:

    it has to be a bummer for the people who thought he was a god. someone more special than them. cheerleaders on all sides, take a lesson from this. this is what happens when you allow someone to govern over you that has little experience. in the “real world” you can’t get a better job unless you have some experience.

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