Oil that is. Louisiana Tea. It is curious that the Obama Administration might be undone not by Tea Party activists or by swelling deficits but by something happening almost a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. From Yahoo News:
In the five weeks since an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, Obama had largely escaped political fallout. But as BP attempts yet again to seal the leak, a new USA Today/Gallup Poll finds a majority of Americans unhappy with Obama’s handling of the spill. According to the poll, 53 percent rate Obama’s handling “poor” or “very poor”; 43 percent believe Obama is doing a good job.
The article goes on to point out that the public blames others (i.e., British Petroleum) more than it blames the President. That will matter when BP has to stand for reelection.
Geography conspires against the President. From USAToday:
The hurricane that drowned New Orleans and cast George W. Bush as out of touch swept across the Gulf Coast nearly five years ago. Now, as oil laps ashore in the very same region, local officials are asking: Is there another government-Gulf Coast disconnect? Is BP’s oil spill becoming this president’s Katrina?
It might even get better, for the President’s opposition. We are entering hurricane season, and the odds are in favor of a bad one. A hurricane in the Gulf right now might push the oil far enough north to lubricate a few Republican candidates.
I am being flippant here because there is an element of silliness in all this. George W. Bush wasn’t responsible for the weather nor did his Administration do a bad job of dealing with it. More aid got to more people faster in the Katrina disaster than in any previous hurricane. But Bush was already in political trouble and people were looking for an excuse to throw him overboard. Some unforced political errors, like going on vacation just before the storm landed, gave them plenty of reason to do so.
President Obama isn’t to blame for the oil rig explosion, nor is there much he can do about it now. No one in his administration has the expertise to deal with an oil spill 5,000 feet below sea level. The Administration may have been slow to act, but there is no reason to believe that swift action on its part would have made a difference. However, half or almost half the public already had doubts about President Obama’s leadership. This might be a tipping point. The New York Times puts it this way:
There were uncomfortable echoes of Katrina. Just as Mr. Bush cast aside Michael Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Obama addressed reporters just hours after S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, his director of the Minerals Management Service, resigned under pressure.
Just as Mr. Bush was criticized for being on vacation in Texas when Katrina bore down on New Orleans, Mr. Obama has been criticized for golfing, fund-raising and, on Thursday night, heading to Chicago for a holiday weekend while oil laps up in the marshes and beaches of Louisiana.
In politics, how it looks is how it is, even if this is bitterly unfair.
Other comparisons between Barack and George W. ought to make his supports nervous. The latter was frequently criticized for his reticence to appear before the press. President Obama just gave his first full Press Conference in ten months! Why is this man, supposedly such a great orator and intelligent statesman, so afraid to face the press in an unscripted setting?
The purpose of the press conference was clear: the President was taking responsibility. The buck stops here. Read the New York Times piece linked above to see how the Times tries to make this assumption of responsibility seem heroic and unique, when it is neither. Then note this from Fox News:
Shortly before Obama entered the East Room, the head of the Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, resigned. Obama pointed the finger at MMS during his press conference for lax oversight, but claimed that he only found out about director Elizabeth Birnbaum’s departure Thursday. “I don’t know the circumstances in which this occurred,” he said.
Let me get this straight: the head of the agency which oversees offshore drilling resigns as oil is spilling into the Gulf, and the President has no flippin’ idea why she resigned or what the circumstances of her resignation were? Who the Hell is in charge here? Either the President is not being honest, or he is as clueless as he pretends to be.