Obama’s Obligatory Oil Odyssey

The following headline and picture, currently fronting YahooNews, sums it up:

Obama arrives in Gulf as BP tries to stop oil leak


Four paragraphs in, AP writers Ben Nuckols and Greg Bluestein get to Obama’s role:

President Barack Obama arrived in the Gulf, where he stood on Fourchon Beach in his shirt-sleeves and called reporters to the water’s edge to point out some small clumps of oil. The beach, one of the few sandy stretches along the Louisiana coast, was sealed off with crime-scene-style yellow tape.

“These are the tar balls that they’re talking about,” he said. “You can actually send out teams to pick up as they wash on shore.”

Friday’s trip was the president’s second to the coast since the BP-leased oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the spill.

He will be briefed in Grand Isle, La., where the beach has been closed since globs of oil started washing up a week ago.

Residents angry and frustrated over the slow pace of efforts to stop the leak did not expect the visit to change much.

“It’s a dog and pony show. What can he really do?” said Billy Ward, 53, who goes to Grand Isle with his family every weekend to stay in their beach house. “If he wants to do something, let him get out there and pump some mud and cement into that hole. Just fix it. Help us.”

So, basically, he’s 1) arrived, 2) will be briefed, and 3) there’s nothing more for him to do.  But there he is, diverting resources that could be more usefully spent doing, well, pretty much anything else.  While BP goes about doing what it was doing regardless:  trying to stop the oil leak.

This isn’t at all a specific criticism of Obama.  He’s doing what is demanded of him and precisely what any other president in my memory would have done under the circumstances.   But it’s just a perfect illustration of the silly cult of the presidency we’ve built.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I believe The West Wing did an episode about this whole stupid tendency of the public to demand that the President appear at the scene of a disaster to do……………….errrr………….something.

  2. Davebo says:

    Yep, Tornadoes

  3. I always thought it was the epitome of silliness when President Obama talked about him and his cabinet discussing the potential plugging options every day, as though any of them have the least bit of competence when it comes to the engineering problems associated with plugging a blowout 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. You can deal with the political fallout, finger-pointing, and determination of liability later, but for now get the hell out of the way and let BP and any other resources you can bring to bear on it try and deal with it. Does anyone really think BP isn’t doing everything in its power to get the damn thing closed as quickly as possible? If so, perhaps they’d like to explain what benefit could possibly accrue from any delay.

  4. floyd says:

    Wow…. Amazing demonstration of even handed coverage.
    While I think this is a fair representation of the truth,I also think that it is pretty much typical of the reaction of the mainstream media and the left , which would have been foaming at the mouth had it been anyone other than the object of their cult of personality who was the subject of the reports.
    Recent history clearly supports my conjecture.

  5. just me says:

    I think in general it is the appearance of doing something that is important, not necessarily that something is being done.

    I am not convinced having a president visit the site of any kind of disaster-hurricane, floods, oil spills etc are necessary in order for things to progress, but they provide photo ops and the appearance that something is being done to placate the masses.

    I think the 24 hour news cycle and the prevalence of the internet has gone a long way to making these demands for appearances even more important. I remember when I lived in a city devastated by a hurricane during the Clinton years, it was almost 8 days before the president made a visit. Nobody was screaming for his head or accusing him of not caring. We didn’t get power back for 6 days-nobody blamed Clinton.

    While I think Obama going to visit the coast isn’t going to do anything to make the oil spill less harmful or the work to clean it up go faster, I do think there is something about the media environment that probably does demand Obama show some kind of involvement, even if deep down we all know most of what he says about visiting the site and how his administration is discussing the problem is probably pure placating BS.

  6. anjin-san says:

    but for now get the hell out of the way and let BP and any other resources you can bring to bear on it try and deal with it.

    Please show us even one instance of how Obama has “gotten in the way”. Be specific.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s a Spock/McCoy thing.

    Obama is a classic Spock. He does the logical thing without drama or emotion.

    Then McCoy (Carville, the GOP, Melancon) start bitching at him about his pointy-eared lack of emotion.

    We are a nation of McCoys. We’ve always preferred presidents who postured and blustered and felt our pain — Reagan, Clinton, Bush the Lesser — to presidents who cut the crap and just did their jobs — Eisenhower, Obama.

  8. As James notes, it is the public (i.e., us) that demands this kind of silliness. If he didn’t go, he’d be criticized for not caring (and it really matters not what party or president we are talking about).

  9. Chicago Ray says:

    Obligatory fly by….laughing all the way back here to Chicago to be ‘fawned over’ by the moronic, local media hoping his ‘unicorn dust’ rubs off on them to quickly forget about these people just like he did the first 33 days.

    Which, contrary to his claims, will become evident to the world sadly when beaches all around the world, like the French Riviera for all we know will soon attest as that 20 mile long 3 mile deep oil vortex starts washing up with dead marine life like we’ve never seen in this lifetime.

    Hopefully the ‘shock’ to the entire eco-system doesn’t kill us off in 20 years God Help us..

  10. Juneau: says:

    Please show us even one instance of how Obama has “gotten in the way”. Be specific.

    By giving BP a pass on the environmental impact work for the lease issuance and renewal.

  11. Juneau: says:

    Obama is a classic Spock. He does the logical thing without drama or emotion.

    What a joke.., He does the “cover my butt” thing without accountability or emotion .

  12. anjin-san says:

    By giving BP a pass on the environmental impact work for the lease issuance and renewal.

    Well, we are discussing the post-disaster effort here, but I realize you are easily confused. Can you detail Presidential involvement in this decision?

  13. Juneau: says:

    Well, we are discussing the post-disaster effort here, but I realize you are easily confused. Can you detail Presidential involvement in this decision?

    Give it up… What Presidential involvement by Bush was present in the pre-Katrina inspections of the dikes around New Orleans? In reality Obama is no more responsible for this than Bush was for Katrina. We all know how that went down with a Republican president , don’t we? But you folks are spinning, spinning, spinning in an attempt to find some way of stating “But this is different, because [ fill in the blank].”

  14. anjin-san says:

    What Presidential involvement by Bush was present in the pre-Katrina inspections of the dikes around New Orleans?

    The dykes? None. But there was a clear warning of a huge hurricane headed dead-on at New Orleans, and Bush decided to go to a party. When Americans were dying in NO, there was no urgency from the oval office. When the relief effort was a train wreck, Bush’s comment was “Great job Brownie”.

    So, take your own advice. Give it up.

  15. G.A.Phillips says:

    Obama is a classic Spock. He does the logical thing without drama or emotion

    I don’t remember Spock being a punk *** finger pointing cry baby?

    Harry, arrogance don’t equal logic nor does trying to act like you know whats going on when you don’t know ****.

    And all this fool brings to any situation is drama, oh and jokes……

  16. G.A.Phillips says:

    But there was a clear warning of a huge hurricane headed dead-on at New Orleans,

    ya for 5 days before it hit on every channel and radio. What don’t you get about leave now there is a good chance for you to be covered in 20 feat of water?

    Obama could have a took his giant ******* bus down there and saved them all……..

    how about the idiot democratic leadership in that state? Must not have been community organizers…..lol……..