Obama Paying A Political Price For The Oil Spill Crisis

A new Gallup poll seems to indicate that President Obama is beginning to pay a political price for what many are perceiving as a lack of an aggressive response to the Gulf oil spill:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With President Barack Obama and BP taking their most aggressive steps yet in response to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the majority of Americans express clear displeasure with their efforts so far.

(…)

Americans’ dissatisfaction with BP’s efforts is particularly strong. Looking at the extreme responses, 39% of Americans earlier this week called BP’s response “very poor” compared to 21% for the federal government and 19% for Obama. “Very good” ratings were almost non-existent for all three players — with 11% saying so about Obama’s efforts, compared with 6% for BP and 5% for the federal government.

Details:

Not surprisingly, BP gets the worst reviews here. Since nobody votes for BP (except at the pump), though, those numbers aren’t nearly as interesting as the 60% “very poor” rating for the Federal Government as a whole, or the 53% number for President Obama.

The Gallup numbers are essentially identical to the results from a CNN poll earlier last week:

Yesterday on This Week, George Will made the interesting argument that this oil spill could turn out to be not “Obama’s Katrina,” but his Iranian Hostage Crisis:

The danger isn’t that it’s his Katrina, it’s that it’s his Iranian hostage crisis. That happened to Carter in his first and, it turned out, only term. So it wasn’t like Katrina which was sort of beside the point by which time Bush was a spent force anyway… [The Iranian hostage crisis] reinforced perception. People said, “Carter’s well-meaning, like him, intelligent fellow, but maybe he just isn’t up to the job.” And the jury’s still out on that for Barack Obama.

In other words, a slow-drip crisis that lasts, if not years as in the case of the Iranian Hostage crisis, at least months and serves to chip away at the public’s image of the President’s ability to competently do his job, an assertion that already seems to be coming from persons such as James Carville, Chris Matthews, Peggy Noonan, and Maureen Dowd.

On the other side of the argument, though, David Brooks made a point on Friday that I think has merit:

You know, the government isn’t in the shrimp business. I don’t expect them to be responsible for it. And the government isn’t in the oil business. I don’t expect them to be responsible for it.

And that is sort of my view. I think people are saying, well, President Obama, President Obama, do something, do something. But they are always very vague about exactly what he should do about the oil that is coming out still.

And so I don’t expect him to be able to close that hole. That’s BP’s job. It’s not our — it’s not the government’s job. The government is doing a reasonably good job, I think, of doing the cleaning and the response. So, I give him a B. You know, this is not the standard he applied to President Bush during Katrina, but I think it is a realistic standard of what we should expect from government.

Unfortunately for President Obama, though, that’s not the world that we live in. The public has an expectation when events like this happen that the Federal Government in general, and the President specifically, will “do something,” even if they don’t know what that something is. The perception over the past 42 days has been of a disengaged President and, whether it’s fair or not, in politics perception is reality.

H/T: Chris Good

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Environment, Oil Spill, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. sam says:

    Yeah, you wonder what folks think he can do. Authorize a nuclear strike on the leak? One thing I did hear someone say is that the feds could begin construction of a barrier reef in certain places. I hadn’t heard that before. Anybody know anything about it?

  2. Pug says:

    The ironic thing is that the folks of Louisiana pretty much vote for “small government” conservatives. They want the government off their backs.

    The second something goes wrong, however, they scream in unison, “Where’s the government? Why don’t they get this fixed now? Give us money.”

  3. Mary says:

    This is what happens when a candidate and later his administration present government as the answer to all problems. Obama is now being hoisted on his own petard and cannot seem to find a way out that will satisfy the lofty expectations he himself created. Isn’t Chris feeling a tingle go up his leg any more?

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Yeah, you wonder what folks think he can do.

    As I’ve said before there probably isn’t any way that the president or the administration can avoid losing from this catastrophe. He treads a narrow line between being disengaged and having the catastrophe identified with him.

  5. grampagravy says:

    The polls cited above simply prove that somewhere between 46% and 60% of the pubic are morons. Perhaps they’d like to see POTUS drop the thousand other things going on while he picks up a shovel, or how about a crackdown on oil production that pushes the price of everything through the roof?

  6. Tim says:

    I said from the get-go that I didn’t think Obama had anything to do with it, that it was something he could not have foreseen or forestalled, but once it happened and he sent lawyers to the scene rather than the best minds in the oil industry to stand beside BP and come up with an answer, I began to fault him for his response. Ultimately, were it not for his aggressive blaming of George Bush for Katrina, I personally would probably give him a pass, but in light of his previous statements, I don’t think he deserves a pass.

  7. Tim says:

    Well, that and he did just say he was responsible, and the buck did stop with him, didn’t he?

  8. john personna says:

    Tim, what makes you think the President has to take the “best minds” by the hand and lead them down there? Me, I’d think BP would be on the phone to them within hours, certainly within days as things started to spin out of control.

  9. Steve Plunk says:

    When your people say they are going to put a boot on the neck of BP and you claim to be in charge you assume ownership of the problem. Is it fair? No. Obama can’t be held responsible for every problem that arises any more than Bush could have been. But quit the bluster and explain it like it is.

    Those small government voters still have a right to expect services from a government they pay taxes to. Smaller doesn’t mean nonexistent. As for the berms we should realize this is what government paralysis is. When you have too many rules, too many agencies, and too many people unwilling to take a chance on doing the right thing before the proper papers are filed, nothing gets done.

  10. This incident occurred in federal waters and requires a federal response. Gov. Jindall requested a list of items from the federal gov. that the State of Louisiana needed to respond to the spill. He either didn’t receive them at all or didn’t receive them in a timely manner. That is a failure of the federal gov. (Corp of Engineers, Coast Guard, etc.) Louisiana will be glad to protect itself as Gov. Jindall has already stated when he told the feds to either get on the job or get out of his way and let us do it. We can’t do what we want to do without federal approval. Indecision is extremely costly during a disaster of this proportion.
    There is a big difference in Katrina and this oil spill. Gov. Blanco during Katrina delayed asking or accepting help from the federal gov even though the federal gov was already here offering help. In New Orleans, Mayor Nagan didn’t follow his own disaster preparedness plan for such a large hurricane. A plan that was practiced in a state-wide drill depicting a break in the levees just months prior to Katrina. His indecision played a big part in the catastophic devastation to personal life and limb of the citizens of New Orleans. But all you heard about was the failure of the federal gov for obvious political reasons.
    There’s plenty of blame to go around during a disaster but what we need now is to protect our shorelines and ecosystem. This is a spill that will end up all along the entire Guld coast and could very well end up reaching the Eastern Seaboard due to the dispersant that was used by BP. We need more boob and volunteers, as well as supper tankers to suck up the oil. We need whatever the GOVERNORS OF THE GULF COAST STATES ASK FOR. If the Federal Gov. listens only to BP as the experts, they will regret it along with the entire gulf coast. BP is looking out for their interests first.
    Respectfully submitted

  11. sam says:

    Louisiana will be glad to protect itself as Gov. Jindall has already stated when he told the feds to either get on the job or get out of his way and let us do it

    Just curious. What would Louisiana, not one of the wealthier states, do if the feds got out of the way”?

  12. Pete says:

    Sam, he means for the Feds to temporarily ease the various restrictions and regulations regarding environmental issues, among others.

  13. This is what happens when a candidate and later his administration present government as the answer to all problems. Obama is now being hoisted on his own petard and cannot seem to find a way out that will satisfy the lofty expectations he himself created

    I would submit that this is not a creation of Obama, or his campaign. Rather, all presidential candidates (of both parties) campaign like this–who runs saying “vote for me, I will be limited in what I can do!” No, people constantly run on the notion that if they are in charge, things will be better.

    Further, we, the American people, tend to expect that presidents will solve problems no matter what they are. This current situation well illustrates this fact.

  14. Eric Florack says:

    As a measure of how seriously Obama takes this situation, he is now taking his second pick a shun in the amount of time that this thing has been belting oil into the gulf. Should we charge him with not taking the situation seriously, as the left to art President Bush?

  15. Gerry W. says:

    If you want to listen to a guy that lays it all out, then go to C-span-Washington Journal and watch the video on 28 May 2010, Garland Robinette. He runs a talk show on WWL radio, New Orleans. And he criticizes Admiral Thad Allen as Allen has said that he has done everything possible and Garland disputes this. Garland Robinette is a very vocal person. Enjoy.

  16. TangoMan says:

    You know, the government isn’t in the shrimp business. I don’t expect them to be responsible for it. And the government isn’t in the oil business. I don’t expect them to be responsible for it.

    Give them time. They didn’t use to be in the auto business, or in banking, or in the home financing business, and look at them now.

  17. sam says:

    @Pete

    Sam, he means for the Feds to temporarily ease the various restrictions and regulations regarding environmental issues, among others.

    Right. Here’s the info I was asking for:

    Louisianan Becomes Face of Anger on Spill

    Along with Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Mr. Nungesser [Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish] has been a dogged advocate for a plan to build barrier islands out of dredged material to keep the oil off the shores.

    There are a number of experts, including the Army Corps of Engineers, who think this is a bad idea, citing cost, time and environmental impact.