Friday, June 04, 2010

The Oil Spill Disaster, President Obama, and a Confused GOP

As the oil spill disaster has unfolded over the past several weeks, I have been dismayed by the images and the coverage. I have been especially annoyed by Republicans hoping to use the catastrophe against President Obama by calling it his Katrina- with the mainstream media more than willing to entertain the Republican talking points. All they are concerned with is the next election or the next opinion poll. I was especially annoyed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Mr. Anti-Big Government himself (particularly the Federal Government).

Republicans have been thrown for a loop by the Gulf oil spill disaster. It is clear that they are extremely confused. In the early days of the disaster, they were warning Obama not to be too heavy handed against the oil industry and to take a soft approach towards BP. In response to his tough talk, they suggested that too much government involvement in BP because of to the disaster would be inappropriate and would be tantamount to fascism (they were already accusing him of fascism during the first couple of weeks of the disaster). They wanted the clean-up to be handled by BP.

However, once the disaster went into its third week and it became clear that the folks at BP were lying about the amount of oil being released and were not doing everything possible to contain the leak… Republicans started to whisper that it was Obama’s Katrina. They were hoping that they could make political hay out of the suffering of others along the Gulf Coast. Once the disaster went into its fourth week, Republicans (and Progressives) started to scream for a government takeover of the Gulf operations (while at the same time, still playing up the nonsense about fascism….to keep their political base energized - the biggest hypocritical jackasses that I have ever seen in my life). Leading the charge has been Bobby Jindal… the biggest Republican Jackass associated with this disaster. He has certainly been the one with the biggest mouth. Now all of a sudden he wants the government to take control from the private sector. This is the same man who lambasted the President last year about too much government - that government was too big and should have a very limited role in American life. Now this jackass is on TV everyday attacking the President (along with other Republicans) for not taking over the operations in the Gulf of Mexico from BP. Mr. Anti-Federal Government has been calling for a federal takeover of the cleanup. Some have suggested that Obama also take over the containment operations at the well site itself. Admiral Thad Allen has had to explain to a number of these idiots that the Navy simply doesn’t have certain special deep sea robotic equipment nor the expertise to cap oil gushing from a well 5,000 ft below the surface. This event has highlighted how confused and confounded Republicans are about what the role of government should be. They don’t seem to know what they want.

I personally believe that a criminal investigation should have started sooner, and everything that the jackasses at BP did from day #1 should have been watched closely and documented. Independent scientists and Federal investigators should have been brought in right away, and documents and any evidence should have been preserved. The Federal government should have taken control of overall operations, while leaving BP in charge of leak control. Instead, it appears that the perpetrator was left in control of his own crime scene for several days….potentially allowing BP to get rid of evidence, tamper with evidence, to turn off cameras, lie or mislead others about the amount of the spillage (because they had/have a financial interest in doing so), and potentially get rid of documents, delete files, and encourage workers not to talk to the media and perhaps even investigators. This is basically the equivalent of police detectives allowing a murder suspect to stay behind and control his own crime scene days after the killing. It makes no sense and it doesn’t happen like this anywhere in the civilized world outside of the realm of corporations. A crime scene in the real world is secured immediately, evidence is preserved just as it was after the incident…or to the degree that this is possible, documents/records are collected and witnesses are identified and separated. This is standard operating procedure. In this situation, the suspect has fewer opportunities to collude, develop a good lie, or to get rid of evidence. Why should we behave any differently when dealing with a corporation like BP? Clearly they are just as capable of doing harm and engaging in serious, outrageous criminal activity as any other organization, group or individual.

Dear President Obama - Every Now and Then Americans Like to See a Glimpse of John Wayne in Their Leaders

I have also been dismayed by President Obama. Although this is not his Katrina….his response and his ability to muster resources has left a lot to be desired. Obama should have called for more tankers and should have put more resources on containment boom duty. There should have been a call for volunteers and more boats. There is no reason why oil should have been coming ashore in areas where containment boom was sitting unattended on docks and where boats and other resources were not being used, as was the case in Southern Louisiana over the past couple of weeks. There is no reason why oil is still coming ashore while there is no robust containment effort underway to stop it. We are talking about an event that provided 3, 4, 5 weeks notice that an oil slick was probably going to be threatening the U.S. Gulf Coast. He should have addressed the nation from the White House, and explained to the American people exactly what the problem was and what his plan of attack was going to be…and he should have marshaled resources….in part by mobilizing the American public by telling them what he needed them to do. If he would have done that weeks ago… we would have had an armada of boats, ships and an army of volunteers in the Gulf, on top of what we already have. Instead, he has gone on trips, has been on Democratic fund-raisers, and has been focused on all sorts of other mundane issues. To the American people, it looks like he’s not connected with what is going on. He certainly isn’t very good at creating a sense of urgency for certain things…this event has been a perfect example.

Even if he is connected…the point is, he doesn’t look like it. The Gulf disaster has really highlighted the weakness in PR that he has been dealing with even before he became President. This PR problem is something that I pointed out a couple of years ago… now everyone can see it. It’s exposed like an open sore. I know there are thousands of people working in the Gulf…and there are hundreds of Coast Guard folks working… but the cameras aren’t showing enough of that, at least they weren’t showing it in the first few weeks of the disaster. This allowed Republicans to run with a narrative that suggested that he wasn’t doing enough. Controlling perception can be as much as 50% of the job for a political figure. The best President in the World can fail if his PR is no good. On the contrary, an idiot can convince a nation to jump into a war that it doesn’t need, as long as he has a powerful and effective PR machine behind him. And there are/have been many examples of these kinds of leaders around the World. President Obama’s political advisers have been doing a horrible job of controlling their message, keeping Obama engaged, and understanding what Americans are feeling.

I also agree that Obama has not been forceful or passionate enough during this crisis. Yes, I criticized the Bush Administration for its cowboy diplomacy and for having a John Wayne approach to everything. But the keyword here is “everything”. The Texas Cowboy President being on duty all the time and the oversimplification of issues just doesn’t work. However, there is a large part of America that does want to see a take charge, John Wayne, ass kicking kind of man in its Presidents on occasion…. and always has. Even Progressives like to see this in their Presidents (don’t let them tell you they don’t). George Washington had it. Abe Lincoln had it. FDR showed it in his speech after the attack on Pearl Harbor. JFK showed his John Wayne during the Cuban missile crisis (although I - and several experts- would have rather seen another approach). Reagan showed it when he told Libya to go to Hell…and dropped bombs when they didn’t do what he asked them to. George H.W. Bush showed his John Wayne when he yelled at Saddam Hussein… demanding that he get the Hell out of Kuwait or he was going to insert his foot in a very sensitive place. (H.W. Bush didn't literally say that last part of course, but his visceral emotion said it...and that's the point). These are the kinds of flickers of anger and strength and visceral emotion that every strong President has to have and should be prepared to show. There is just no way around it. And when Americans don’t see it…. When they don’t see you as their vessel for expressing their feelings to the rest of the world, you appear disconnected. Americans want a man who feels deeply…but who is strong…. Or can at least appear so… like John Wayne in the classic film “The Longest Day” (still one of my favorite war movies… have seen it at least 7 times… but I never get tired of watching it). The point is… Americans like to see a strong leader….a take charge kind of a man. Not someone who doesn’t show glimpses of anger and who is fund-raising in the middle of a national catastrophe.

Obama still has time to get it together. All is not lost. Attorney General Eric Holder has just announced a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the spill (although the announcement came several weeks late IMO). His advisers (many of whom should be replaced) finally got the message to him…. Or he figured it out for himself.. that he needs to be more hands on with the Gulf disaster. He has learned that he needs to “appear” more engaged…regardless of what he has been doing behind the scenes in some obscure Situation Room. Americans don’t know much about that mundane stuff…and they frankly don’t care. What they want to see is a man who appears on top of the situation. And in America…that means being on the scene…. early and often. Running the Country is not like running a law firm or being an academic in Chicago or Cambridge Massachusetts.

P.S. You can check out "The Longest Day" online.... I believe the whole movie will play. (Love that film).


~~Just Me in T~~ said...
Were you taught whilst growing up that Real Men Don’t Cry Mr. Obama? Well let me tell you now – that is a fallacy! Emotions right this moment, are what will touch those suffering on the Gulf Coast the most, and give them a sense of your love for them.

I believe they are sick and tired of the same old lines. “We’re making good progress” just does not cut it any longer.

rikyrah said...

he need to drop the financial hammer on BP. period.

AND the regulatory hammer.

until they get this spill under control; all other rigs in American waters are shut down. PERIOD.

Laura Castillo said...

Ok, I really liked this article/blog. It really tells things like it is and doesn't sugar coat it. I wish more mainstream media would be as direct and honest as you are. CNN could learn a thing or two from you. I LOVE President Obama and I can forgive this mistake. Heck, he is doing pretty well with the rest of America's problems. However, he must have read your article because I think he is coming around. He is not the kind of man to make the same mistake twice. Thank you for not taking sides. It was really refreshing. You are awesome!

The Angry Independent said...

Thank you Laura...

Obama seems to have moved the oil spill way up on his priority list in the last week or two...

But no matter what he does at this point, I doubt that it will satisfy everyone.

He may have waited too late ... may have lost too much time. In the first few weeks... Obama's mind seemed to be elsewhere.

It seems as though the spill screwed up the agenda that he had planned for the Summer (talking about Jobs, etc going into the Midterms). But his advisers should have recognized how to turn a negative into a positive...and should have pushed him to be more aggressive & more engaged publicly much earlier.