Barack Obama: Speaking Loudly, Carrying The Same Old Stick

In an interview that will air tomorrow morning on Today, President Obama displays another example of what appears to be the “tough talk” strategy the White House adopted late last week on the Gulf Oil Spill:

(CNN) — President Barack Obama bluntly defended his administration’s response to the undersea gusher fouling the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, telling an interviewer he has met with experts to learn “whose ass to kick.”

“I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf,” Obama told NBC’s “Today” show in an interview scheduled to air Tuesday. “A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be.”

A variety of critics have accused Obama of being too cerebral in his reaction to the undersea gusher now fouling the Gulf of Mexico, of failing to put the full force of the administration and of putting too much trust in oil company BP. But Obama told NBC his deliberations have been more than academic.

“I don’t sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar,” Obama continued. “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

It will be interesting to see how the public and the media reacts to this, not the least being because this is the first time that I can remember that a President used and (admittedly minor) vulgarity in a public statement. This isn’t the 1950’s, so I can’t imagine that most people will think it’s that big of a deal, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the right-wing chatter machine tried to make it the outrage of the day for Tuesday.

More broadly, though, this is obviously part of the White House’s new strategy, which started on Thursday, to try to make it appear as though the President was angry and in charge when it came to the oil spill, A strategy that is no doubt a reaction to some of the complaints that have come from both the left and the right about the extent to which he has seemed to be disengaged throughout this crisis.

My question is to what end ? So the President has proven that he’s angry and is willing to use big boy words when talking about BP. How, exactly, is that going to accomplish anything substantive ?

The answer, of course, is that it won’t. Whether it’s the cerebral Obama or the “kick ass” Obama, the problems in the Gulf will still exist and the truth of the matter is that many of them are beyond the ability of the President, or the Federal Government, to solve. Perhaps it’s time that leaders like President Obama started communicating that truth to the American public, rather than acting like teenage boys in the school yard.

FILED UNDER: Environment, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. mike says:

    I am sure that those at fault are shaking in their hand made boots. He won’t do anything except threaten to pass more laws that will not do anything. Then the next election will float around and he will have his hand out for donations. I am just surprised he took time out of his busy schedule of campaigning to address the issue.

  2. JKB says:

    Obama missed his opportunity.  What he, as president, could have done was cut through the red tape.  Berms/bars that Gov. Jindal wanted?  Done by presidential order while the environmental study is done concurrently.  If he didn’t have the authority, he could’ve demanded it temporarily from congress.
    Instead, we go president short pants stamping his foot and making threats because he’s frustrated.  Or faking frustrated because his supporters want to see the president act out their childish emotions.

  3. DavidL says:

    Leaders act.  Obama postures.    He is trying to make a show of being decisive after ignoring the problem in the Gulf in favor of golf outings, campaign stops and meetings with college basketball teams.   So tell me Mr. President what did the Duke basketball team have to say about plugging the darn  hole?

  4. says:

    Doug – I agree with what you’re saying, there is no point in him playing up his emotions, BUT it is what people are saying they want and there is no harm in it. He spent four weeks as calm and rational and got nothing but grief. Now he’s not going to get anything but grief for being emotional.

    Look at the previous comments, all slam him for “posturing”, when everything that can be done is being done. The only substantive suggestion (the berms in LA item) was acted on a week ago and they have started building them. Ships and officials have been dispatched. A team of experts have been assembled. Investigations have been launched and initial bills have been assessed. The relevant agencies have stated that BP has the most expertise and that they are supporting their efforts. The only suggestions that I have heard that haven’t been acted on are nationalizing BP for the duration of the emergency and nuking the wellhead.

    It is sad, but there seems to be a large portion of this country that has already decided their narrative of this presidency and no amount of reality or facts are going to change their minds.

  5. the Q says:

    So the right wingers want the federal government to run rough shod over the private sector and “socialize” the effort by usurping the private sector efforts and inserting the inefficient public sector?
    Hey aholes, what happened to the mantra that the private sector does everything better than the gobmint?
    So Obama, by keeping gobmint out of the process of the private sector cleanup gets endlessly criticized by wing-nut loons who have no hesitation to call him a Marxist socialist when he dares interfere with the implosion of Wall Street and wants to re-regulate industries which benefited by the bush see no evil Republican brand of corporations uber alles philosphy.
    You idiots are pathetic.
    When the history is written about what insanity warped the U.S. during the last quarter of the 20th century and the early millennium, make no mistake it will be the utter foolishness and infantile prattle of the right wing conservative morons who somehow managed thru propaganda to mesmerize the masses into stupendous acts of foolishness.
    The evil black ooze emanating from deep under the earth threatening to destroy life and environments is merely the physical manifestation  of the dark side of Republican ideology literally run amok.
    This ideology worships the altar of private greed and avarice. The melt down of wall street was preceded by  two decades of financial deregulation led by the likes of such intellectual stalwarts as Phil Gramm (Gramm Bliley kissing goodbye to Glass Steagall) and Jake Garn (goodbye S&Ls).
    The oil industry greatly benefited by the gutting of the very government agencies and regulations which were designed to keep such a disaster from occurring.
    As each barrel gushes out into the deep clear waters of the Gulf besmirching and befouling everything it touches, let us see this metaphorically for what it really is – the clear and inevitable result of a flawed, anachronistic set of irrational policies promulgated for the last 30 years by a bunch of zealots who through hubris and insolence, can never admit their wrong until they are forced to choke on their own bile.
    What I like about this blog is the moderate writers here (e.g. Dr. Joyner etc.) who are not afraid of actually admitting some of the failures of right wing policy and who responsibly and adroitly skewer liberal policies when appropriate.
    The rest of the right wingers (Messrs. Austin, plunk, Tangoman et al) consistently get their asses kicked by lefties who constantly rebut with fact and logic the stupidity of the conservative group think.
    Yet, like Monty Python’s Black Knight, they constantly clamor back for more destruction in their mindless, slavish devotion to their outdated ideology.
    Its painful, yet fascinating to watch as their points are systematically ratfu*4cked by superior argument, yet they cry out,  like the black knight with limbs severed , “Come back here and take what’s coming to you! I’ll bite your legs off!’
    Like I said, pathetic if it weren’t so friggin destructive to the rest of us.

  6. joshua brown says:

    Oh look he wore his boots! Too bad no ones ass is getting kicked today 🙁