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.

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. john personna says:

    Felix Salmon called unemployment “Obama’s real Katrina.” Kinda weird which attracts the eye and the pundits.

    Actually, it’s really weird. Many of the critics above are free market types. They wouldn’t expect Obama to “dive in” to fix unemployment. In fact, they argue against it. But he should “dive in” to the operations of a private company, working to mitigate it’s own liability?

    I guess it comes down to philosophies being flexible, and often just rationalizations for self-interest.

  2. john personna says:

    (looking at the list again, I guess most are lefties. Noonan is right of course, and I’d say Carville in his zombie phase.)

  3. JKB says:

    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.”

    I can see that quote coming back to haunt him over healthcare, the failed stimulus, etc.

    The spill is not Obama’s fault but he was party to the creation of the dependency. The Dems and their minions in the media moved to skewer Bush over Katrina but didn’t realize that same pike would soon hold a Democrat head since even they cannot defeat nature. So their is a bit of amusement seeing Obama slowly slide down the pike.

    The real problem is presidents run as being able to solve all ills. People buy the cry. Lately, the cry has been give me your money and your freedom and I will give you peace, tranquility and comfort. Well, reality is a bitch. We are up against a physic problem. No movie magic will solve this. Perhaps the good from the spill we be a maturing of society as the children realize that daddy president can’t make everything better.

    Do they even teach “man against nature” in English classes anymore?

    Now, let’s talk about geo-engineering to alleviate the fear of climate change. What could go wrong with all those Ivy league brainiacs making stuff up?

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    When you claim you’re going to fix it or make others fix it and it don’t get fixed guess what? That’s right, you get the blame. When your platform is basically government can cure all ills and those ills are not cured guess what? That’s right, you get the blame. Leadership has it’s downside and our President is seeing it.

    The funny thing to me is Obama’s greatest ally, the press, is essentially who is creating this as the crisis of his administration. Why aren’t they educating Americans about the realities and difficulties of fixing this leak as well as the limitations of government? The press failed in vetting Obama the candidate and is now failing in it’s coverage of this spill.

  5. Drew says:

    Bravo, JKB

    And JP – Payback’s a bitch. Despite that strawman “they.”

    Recently there was an idiotic observation by one of the new essayists here – endorsed by another of the new essayists – that (paraphrased) “they” have to tear down Obama so “they” can justify Bush. Mindless drivel.

    I’d like to meet “they” sometime.

  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Just to remind people of the unofficial count:
    •Two days of media events (White House Correspondents Dinner and a tête a tête with Bono)
    •Three days of fundraising
    •Four commemorations (graduations, Cinco de Mayo, etc)
    •Six days of vacation
    •Six days of campaigning
    •Six sports events
    •Seven days of golf
    In comparison, how many days did Obama spend at the Gulf? Three, during this span of time, and he’s back again today.

    Had Bush done the same during Katrina he would have been skewered. Fact is, Katrina was first a State problem. The feds had to wait for the call for help which came late. The oil spill is firmly in an area where the feds have supermacy. They least the site, they sign off on all the operation. All of this particular well work happened during the current administartions tenure. The Mines manager lost her job, favors were shown tol company which supported candidate Obama. By the way Doug, are you at all familiar with the Cloward-Piven strategy? Never let a crisis go to waste. Doug, why do you keep carrying water for this incompetent?

  7. john personna says:

    Drew, JKB, a lot depends on what Obama knows, what makes him “furious.”

    There is such a thing as criminal negligence. I would think that’s what it would take to make someone furious, as opposed to say frustrated. And of course anyone who tries to cast an oil leak as an Act of God might be caught a bit off base if criminal negligence emerges.

    (Can’t help but think of Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious, still the classic.)

  8. john personna says:

    Zelsdorf, you still don’t get that there is a private company with responsibility for their actions … or are you a big “fascist” now? Were you one of those who decried “fascist” tendencies to take over the management of businesses just a few short weeks ago?

  9. john personna says:

    BTW … don’t anybody make the weak argument that it’s the regulator’s fault if companies are criminally negligent. That would be exactly like it’s the cops fault that people rob banks.

  10. Doug, why do you keep carrying water for this incompetent?

    How exactly am I carrying water for a President who I didn’t vote for and whose policies I don’t support ?

  11. sam says:

    If you guys upthread can take your noses out of the Schadenfreude trough for a minute, how about this for some sphincter-tightening:

    Ocean currents likely to carry oil along Atlantic coast

  12. Herb says:

    Here’s a list of things Zelsdorf really isn’t all that mad about….

    ҥTwo days of media events (White House Correspondents Dinner and a t̻te a t̻te with Bono)
    •Three days of fundraising
    •Four commemorations (graduations, Cinco de Mayo, etc)
    •Six days of vacation
    •Six days of campaigning
    •Six sports events
    •Seven days of golf”

    There are two types of people who want to put this in Obama’s lap…..

    Those who think he can fix problems by waving his magic wand.

    And those who want to hang this around his neck like a noose.

    I’m not impressed by either type.

  13. Wayne says:

    JP
    Yes private companies must be responsible for their actions but so do government agencies and administrations.

    If the regulators are responsible for overseeing companies action but are negligent in that supervision then they are at fault. If a bank security administrator doesn’t hire professional security personnel and take proper action to insured proper protection then he is at fault for a robbery.

    Obama administration did not have proper oversight and allowed rules to be broken. He gave safety waivers to a high risk rig. His action in response was slow and ineffective.

    http://www.punditandpundette.com/2010/05/nyt-obamas-response-to-oil-spill-could.html

    He took too long to approved waivers for Louisiana to build berms and didn’t allow enough of them. He still is relying on BP to get the manpower down there to control the spill and clean it up instead of getting resources there himself. From what I saw on CNN, there is equipment setting on the dock that could help in the cleanup but isn’t being used. Local politicians can’t even get an answer as to why not. Besides what Obama says many of the local leaders can’t get answers from his administration.

    Do I expect him to cancel many of these ceremonies and vacations? Yes. Obama and many top members of his administration could be down there meeting with locals and their leaders to see what they need. They can pick up the phone and see why it is not being done. An answering machine at the White House can’t do that.

    There are many things Obama could be doing better. So please don’t give me “there is nothing he can do. He is only the President after all.” It is not like it just happen last week.

  14. john personna says:

    If the regulators are responsible for overseeing companies action but are negligent in that supervision then they are at fault.

    Is that the way it works? The Coast Guard down here is very strict about oil leaked from private boats. I believe even a pint let loose by accident carries a very large fine (a couple thousand dollars?).

    Now, if I have such a leak, and I can show that the Coast Guard was playing cards, I’m in the clear? A judge will buy that? Seriously?

    … you really are making this stuff up as you go along.

  15. ARCstats says:

    What does anyone expect from an individual with no executive experience when a problem of this magnitude emerges under his watch? The usual result (as is what’s happening now) is no logical approach, but rather emotional lunacy. Such a fraud for a leader.

  16. john personna says:

    So ARCstats, I assume you are a big Hugo Chavez fan? Presidents should seize control of oil companies whenever they feel they are not fulfilling social obligations?

  17. Wayne says:

    Re “Now, if I have such a leak, and I can show that the Coast Guard was playing cards, I’m in the clear? A judge will buy that? Seriously?”

    There would be a good chance that you wouldn’t be caught. If you were caught then you are still responsible for your part in it. The Coast Guard members playing cards and their chain of command would be discipline for dereliction of duty.

    As a supervisor or as a supervisory authority, you are responsible for what you oversee. If something or someone screws up on your watch, you are responsible. Doubly so if you neglect you duties as a supervisor.

  18. Wayne says:

    JP
    Talking about a straw man argument. Wanting the President to insure BP and the Government is doing all they can is not the same as seizing private company assets.

    Going by your B.S. all inclusive logic, since you don’t want Obama to be more involved then you must want government completely out of our lives and private industry.

  19. john personna says:

    Did you just shift your argument Wayne?

    “Wanting the President to insure BP and the Government is doing all they can…”

    Not exactly the same as:

    “If the regulators are responsible for overseeing companies action but are negligent in that supervision then they are at fault.”

    Or the even greater BS:

    “Obama administration did not have proper oversight and allowed rules to be broken.”

  20. john personna says:

    (You can’t say you trust free markets on one hand, and then say the President must swoop in and fix things on the other. Worse, you can’s say you trust free markets, but only if the President has a guy in every room, monitoring every decision.)

  21. Wayne says:

    JP
    No I didn’t shift my argument. The “Wanting the President to insure BP and the Government is doing all they can…” was in reply to your “Presidents should seize control of oil companies whenever they feel they are not fulfilling social obligations?”

    Responding to a disaster and enforcing safety regulation is part of the President’s job. That is the proper role of government. Bail outs, government price fixing, and government takeovers are not.

    Saying you want the government to respond to a fire or try to catch vandals setting fires is not the same as saying you want them involved in every aspect of the free market. By your logic if I said I want the government to respond to a fire I therefore must want them to tell me who I can hire. What to pay them. Wither to expand my business or not. What I should place on the menu, etc.

    Is that how you really think?

  22. john personna says:

    Wayne, you wrote:
    “Obama administration did not have proper oversight and allowed rules to be broken.”
    How much oversight do you really think it takes, not to “allow rules to be broken?”

    Of course you are talking about an invasive authoritarian state.  That’s what it takes, not just to have rules, but to have “watchers” everywhere to “[prevent] rules from being broken.”

  23. john personna says:

    (It’s simple.  There were rules.  If they were broken (and a leak <b>is</b> a broken rule), then the rule breaker is at fault.
     
    You’ve got this crazy “get Obama” idea that he should have “prevented” it, but you aren’t getting what kind of police state it would take to accomplish that.)