Obama's Katrina - The Politics of It Is Oily
If you missed the President Obama's news conference, his first in 10 months, here's a succinct summary: It was about the oil spill. And it's mainly somebody else's fault.
Whose? BP's or the previous administration's (his favorite scapegoat even though he's been president now for some 16 months). Or it's the fault of unnnamed "federal agencies" he really has nothing to do with, or the "culture" of the oil industry and government regulation thereof, or ... you name it.
This he called taking responsibility.
Yes, the president admitted his administration was too slow when it came to preventing the catastrophe, and "I take responsibility for that. There wasn't sufficient urgency in terms of the pace of how those changes needed to take place. Obviously, they weren't happening fast enough."
But that confession required only seconds; the rest of his hour-long press conference was pretty much devoted to how other people hadn't done their jobs. You'd think he was back on the campaign trail attacking the president. Somebody ought to tell him he's the president now.
Nothing has been so revealing of this commander-in-chief's lack of military training than his response or lack thereof to this long, slowly but ever deepening crisis. Because instead of just saying, "No excuse, sir," and clearing the air, there he was at still another rostrum last week talking, talking, talking ... instead of clearly acting on the ground, or rather in the water. The sludge, both physical and political, just keeps coming.
Campaigning and governing mix in a republic, and certainly in a democracy. It's hard to draw the line between spirit and substance. Which was it that buoyed the country when FDR and later
This administration, the president wants us to know, has been on this crisis since, yes, Day One: "Those who think we were either slow on the response or lacked urgency, don't know the facts. This has been our highest priority."
That's nice. But if the administration really has acted quickly, urgently, then why did his Director of Minerals Management have to resign just hours before his press conference? Was it just a coincidence? Did she just happen to pick this time to decide she needed some down time?
The director --
So whom are you going to believe, the president's description of this administration as responsive and fast-acting, moving urgently to contain the catastrophe, or your own lying eyes?
The moral of this story: When it's your own shoreline that's in danger, it kind of changes your perspective. It gives you, in the words of that scholarly work of political science, "A Boy Named Sue," a different point of view. (Cash, J.) That's when politics stops being some kind of abstract, spectator sport and becomes a matter of life and death. Mr. Carville has started sounding like
Last time, it was Katrina. By the time
As soon as the Creole Napoleon landed, he could be seen all over the streets of the flooded city barking orders at mere colonels. Or as Mayor Nagin had to admit: "Now, I will tell you this -- and I give the president some credit on this -- he sent one
But where is this president's General Honoré? Happily,
The last president we had was done in by a natural disaster; this one could be done in by an unnatural one. One president demonized by his kneejerk critics was enough. Please, not again.
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(c) 2010 Paul Greenberg