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.