He Was Supposed to Be Competent

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Pop Sickle, May 28, 2010.

  1. He Was Supposed to Be Competent

    The spill is a disaster for the president and his political philosophy.


    I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office. And they were all, as they say, unforced errors, meaning they were shaped by the president's political judgment and instincts.

    There was the tearing and unnecessary war over his health-care proposal and its cost. There was his day-to-day indifference to the views and hopes of the majority of voters regarding illegal immigration. And now the past almost 40 days of dodging and dithering in the face of an environmental calamity. I don't see how you politically survive this.

    The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen. This is a terrible thing to see in a political figure, and a startling thing in one who won so handily and shrewdly in 2008. But he has not, almost from the day he was inaugurated, been in sync with the center. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They're in one reality, he's in another.

    The American people have spent at least two years worrying that high government spending would, in the end, undo the republic. They saw the dollars gushing night and day, and worried that while everything looked the same on the surface, our position was eroding. They have worried about a border that is in some places functionally and of course illegally open, that it too is gushing night and day with problems that states, cities and towns there cannot solve.

    And now we have a videotape metaphor for all the public's fears: that clip we see every day, on every news show, of the well gushing black oil into the Gulf of Mexico and toward our shore. You actually don't get deadlier as a metaphor for the moment than that, the monster that lives deep beneath the sea.

    In his news conference Thursday, President Obama made his position no better. He attempted to act out passionate engagement through the use of heightened language—"catastrophe," etc.—but repeatedly took refuge in factual minutiae. His staff probably thought this demonstrated his command of even the most obscure facts. Instead it made him seem like someone who won't see the big picture. The unspoken mantra in his head must have been, "I will not be defensive, I will not give them a resentful soundbite." But his strategic problem was that he'd already lost the battle. If the well was plugged tomorrow, the damage will already have been done.
    More Peggy Noonan

    The original sin in my view is that as soon as the oil rig accident happened the president tried to maintain distance between the gusher and his presidency. He wanted people to associate the disaster with BP and not him. When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble. When you try to dodge ownership of a problem, when you try to hide from responsibility, life will give you ownership and responsibility the hard way. In any case, the strategy was always a little mad. Americans would never think an international petroleum company based in London would worry as much about American shores and wildlife as, say, Americans would. They were never going to blame only BP, or trust it.

    I wonder if the president knows what a disaster this is not only for him but for his political assumptions. His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: "Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust." Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: "We pay so much for the government and it can't cap an undersea oil well!"

    This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn't like about the Bush administration, everything it didn't like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point—they know it without being told—but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush's incompetence and conservatives' failure to "believe in government." But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent.

    Remarkable too is the way both BP and the government, 40 days in, continue to act shocked, shocked that an accident like this could have happened. If you're drilling for oil in the deep sea, of course something terrible can happen, so you have a plan on what to do when it does.

    How could there not have been a plan? How could it all be so ad hoc, so inadequate, so embarrassing? We're plugging it now with tires, mud and golf balls?

    What continues to fascinate me is Mr. Obama's standing with Democrats. They don't love him. Half the party voted for Hillary Clinton, and her people have never fully reconciled themselves to him. But he is what they have. They are invested in him. In time—after the 2010 elections go badly—they are going to start to peel off. The political operative James Carville, the most vocal and influential of the president's Gulf critics, signaled to Democrats this week that they can start to peel off. He did it through the passion of his denunciations.

    The disaster in the Gulf may well spell the political end of the president and his administration, and that is no cause for joy. It's not good to have a president in this position—weakened, polarizing and lacking broad public support—less than halfway through his term. That it is his fault is no comfort. It is not good for the stability of the world, or its safety, that the leader of "the indispensable nation" be so weakened. I never until the past 10 years understood the almost moral imperative that an American president maintain a high standing in the eyes of his countrymen.

    Mr. Obama himself, when running for president, made much of Bush administration distraction and detachment during Katrina. Now the Republican Party will, understandably, go to town on Mr. Obama's having gone only once to the gulf, and the fund-raiser in San Francisco that seemed to take precedence, and the EPA chief who decided to skip a New York fund-raiser only after the press reported that she planned to attend.

    But Republicans should beware, and even mute their mischief. We're in the middle of an actual disaster. When they win back the presidency, they'll probably get the big California earthquake. And they'll probably blow it. Because, ironically enough, of a hard core of truth within their own philosophy: when you ask a government far away in Washington to handle everything, it will handle nothing well.

  2. Yeah, Obama is going to dive down there himself in his snorkel gear and plug the oil leak himself.

    If there's somebody to blame there, it would be the head of the government dept. that oversees how these companies are operating & if they're doing so in a safe manner.
  3. Who ever said "HE" is competent?:confused:
  4. No kidding. The decline of the extreme right is becoming manifest in so many ways over the past 4 years or so. This type of thing just hastens their demise. Pure politics, and nothing more. Geaorge Bush fiddled while New Orleans drowned, and now the extremist right are pointing fingers when the only people with the expertise to fix this problem are the contractors involved.
  5. Just nuke the thing already - cauterize the "wound".

    Clean up.

  6. siki13


    I always thought that right wings are rotten only in my country but i learned over time that they are a worldwide disease .
  7. 377OHMS


    Yep, there it is. President Obama is incompetent.

    All the people who voted for this fraud need their head examined.
  8. jem


    To the lefty presidential jock sniffers -- have you ever lived in a gulf state... have you any idea how much destruction is happening. Red tide knocked the fish, what do you think this will do. You think that the President did the correct thing by playing golf and raising funds in Ca.

    Oh wait some of you jock sniffers are not even Americans.
  9. Yannis



    "President Obama's job-approval rating just hit an all-time low. And there's a pattern behind the trifecta of issues that are driving the drop -- the oil spill, the Arizona immigration-policing law and the fallout from the Greek crisis.

    After four months of hovering between a low of 46 percent approval and a high of 49 percent, Obama just fell to 42 percent in the daily Rasmussen polls. What's hurting him, and why?

    The president originally seized on each of these issues to make populist political hay. But then the problem wouldn't go away -- and voters began to realize that Obama is, in fact, the president and (logically enough) started giving him much of the blame.

    When oil started to spill into the Gulf of Mexio, Obama seized the opportunity for a partisan attack -- blaming Republicans who had chanted, "Drill, baby, drill," the whole summer of 2008 as high gasoline prices gave John McCain's candidacy new steam.

    Even though the president had himself, with lamentable timing, moved to allow expanded drilling a few weeks before the rig exploded, the impetus for drilling was clearly seen as Republican, and the disaster hurt Republican ratings. Obama couldn't resist also piling populist scorn on British Petroleum, lambasting big oil for the spill.

    But then the leak didn't stop -- and the slick kept heading to shore. Now the public is wondering why it's seen no presidential action to stop the spill. As the oil seeps onto the beaches of Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, it also seeps into Obama's poll numbers and drags them down. His press conference yesterday was a clear effort to look decisive and effective and stop the bleeding -- but it came awfully late in the crisis.

    As soon as Arizona passed its law authorizing cops to pick up illegal immigrants, Obama jumped on the issue, trying to use it to drive up Latino turnout for Democrats later this year. But it became clear that the majority of Americans strongly backs the law -- and now he's sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to stop the bleeding in his polls.

    Then there's the stock market. After the crash of 2008, Obama was quick to blame banks and other big businesses for their irresponsible behavior and then to take credit for averting a global collapse in the aftermath. So when Greece exploded due to its top-heavy debt load and dragged the market below 10,000, people wondered if Obama's populist treatment of the financial markets and his big spending and borrowing were subjecting America to economic peril.

    When Moody's announces that it is considering downgrading the credit rating of the United States -- the richest nation, by far, on Earth -- it raises understandable alarm.

    Of course, Obama's polls will rise and fall in the weeks, months and years ahead; today's 42 percent may prove a long-forgotten blip. But it's a bit like noticing the line of seaweed on the beach. The tide comes in and goes out -- but the seaweed marks where it will likely return to.

    Look at it this way: Obama got 52 percent of the vote in 2008 -- so his 42 percent approval means that one in five of his voters has turned on him.

    And it's a traumatic event for someone who voted for Obama and had stuck with him since, saying he approved of the president's policies, to finally turn and say he doesn't approve. That voter may go back to approving of his president again -- but it gets easier and easier to voice disapproval.

    Especially if the oil keeps spilling, the illegals keep coming -- and the market keeps tanking."
  10. Obama: Go to Gulf beaches; most still open, clean
    Obama urges Americans to vacation at Gulf beaches; almost all clean, open despite oil spill
    On Thursday May 27, 2010, 2:52 pm EDT

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is encouraging Americans to visit the Gulf Coast despite the huge offshore oil spill.

    At a White House news conference Thursday, Obama said while three beaches in Louisiana have been fouled by oil, the rest of the region's beaches are clean and safe. He says Gulf state governors have asked him "to remind everybody" the beaches are open.

    The spill has economic as well as environmental costs for the Gulf states -- Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. With the summer tourist season about to start, Obama says Americans can help people along the Gulf by continuing to visit their communities and beaches.

    I recall the left raging mad when Bush told everyone to go shopping. From democraticunderground.com:

    #10     May 28, 2010