Oil Spill Day 46: Obama Held Hostage
Pundits such as James Carville, Chris Matthews, Peggy Noonan, and Maureen Dowd have given President Obama a lot of heat lately for his response, or lack thereof, to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and what’s becoming clear is that the longer this story goes on, the more that his entire Presidency is becoming consumed by a crisis that he doesn’t necessarily have the ability to control. This week, for example, he’s been criticized for hosting a Paul McCartney concert at the White House and Jon Stewart returned from vacation with a pretty-hard hitting piece contrasting Obama’s statement that the oil spill was his “top priority” with images of the President performing various ceremonial duties. Then, last night, the White House announced that they were once again canceling the President’s trip to Indonesia and Australia:
WASHINGTON — President Obama canceled his trip to Australia, Indonesia and Guam late Thursday night as oil continued to stream into the Gulf of Mexico in what he has called the worst environmental disaster in American history.
His decision came as officials reported progress containing the oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
Mr. Obama is to visit the Gulf Friday to assess the situation and meet with officials responding to the crisis. While the White House statement offered no reason for scratching the Asia trip this time, officials in recent days had grown increasingly convinced that it was untenable for the president to leave the country for a week with the oil spill still unchecked.
So today, the President will head back down to the Gulf Region to………do……..something. Other than listen to experts he could talk to on the phone or via video conference and appear “concerned,” it’s not at all clear what purpose is served by the President being in Louisiana instead of Washington. Nor is it clear what exactly the people who are criticizing Obama for engaging in the ceremonial aspects of his job would have him do.
Nonetheless, as recent polls from Gallup and CNN show, the public is not pleased with the Administration’s handling of the crisis and seems about to shift from being the President projecting an image of quiet competence to trying to show the public that he’s “angry:”
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Thursday he was “furious” about the situation in the Gulf of Mexico and that BP hasn’t moved fast enough to respond to the massive oil spill there.
The president said in an interview for broadcast on CNN’s “Larry King Live” that BP has felt his anger — although he said “venting and yelling at people” won’t solve the problem.
Using his strongest language to date on the spill, Obama said: “I am furious at this entire situation because this is an example where somebody didn’t think through the consequences of their actions.”
Obama had not previously voiced such sweeping criticisms of BP. But Thursday the president said he hadn’t seen the kind of “rapid response” from BP that he’d like.
Will these expressions of anger please the public ? Probably.
Will they actually accomplish anything substantive like stopping the leak or cleaning up the Louisiana marshes ? Of course not.
We are now at the point where there is no other item on Obama’s agenda more important than this oil spill, or at least that’s the image that he now has to project to the public. In reality, of course, there are other issues demanding the President’s attention, some of them, like Israel, Korea, and the economy, arguably just as important as the crisis in the Gulf.
For better or worse, Obama’s Presidency is now defined by an oil spill that he can’t really control.