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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Top Kill Fails - Is This Worse For Obama Than Katrina For Bush?

The headlines from tell us all we need to know:

BP Says 4 Days Needed To Try Next Fix, This One Using Robot Submarines... Government 'Blindly Accepting' BP's Spin... Media Access 'Being Strangled'... Unanswered Questions... Frank Rich: Is Spill Obama's Katrina, Or Worse?

They also raise a question which I have touched upon as well.  Is the Gulf Oil Spill Obama's Katrina or worse?

As I have said, I am a supporter and admire President Obama.  I believe he has been a force for good in this Country and that he does really care about the direction we take as a nation.  To be fair, I believe President Bush truly believed as well- we just disagree as to the direction (as to Cheney - don't even get me started).

So if we look back to Katrina and the lessons learned I think it is instructive. 

The issue with Katrina was not the storm, the natural disaster.  It was what followed and why.  The storm had come and past and we all felt that we had averted a disaster in New Orleans.  Then, the levees failed due to poor maintenance and improper construction - issued created by man.

And as bad as those failures on our part to protect an American-city, it was what happened next that should have forever changed us.

We watched, hopelessly, as our government failed.  Failed on every level to have a plan to save lives and a great city.  We watched as people dies; as people were stranded without food or water.  We watched as our leaders, one after another, did nothing.

Then, we turned to the one person who, as our President, our Commander-In-Chief, is suppose to be the leader of our nation and what happened?  For many, it seemed as if he didn't care; that he didn't understand the magnitude of the problem.  And compounding those issues, he was seen congratulating people for doing a good job when they had failed to prevent the disaster and were failing at protecting lives.

It was like watching bush declare victory from the air-craft carrier too soon all over again.  We had a President who seemed out of touch and uncaring.

We wanted action.  We wanted to hear our President demand solutions.  We wanted an advocate - no we demanded that our President yell from the rafters that help was on the way.  If we look to our history, it is peppered with heroes who did just that.
  • Nathan Hale - I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.
  • George Washington - Government is not reason, it is not eloquence. It is force, and like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
  • Thomas Jefferson - I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
  • Thomas Paine - These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it Now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower - I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!"
  • Calvin Coolidge - Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.
  • Patrick Henry - I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
  • John F. Kennedy - Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.
President Bush learned the hard way that by failing to rise above the issues presented by Katrina he lost the hope and faith of his nation.

We, the people, did not expect our president to have the answers, but we did demand that someone take charge - that someone cared - that our President was MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE.

I watched just Friday as President Obama went to the Gulf Coast, saw the oil first-hand and then addressed the nation.  Yet, as I watched it, I kept hoping for some defining moment, some instance where Obama took charge, demanded answers, but it never came.

Obama has been called the "Great Orator."  He didn't show it.  A pundit form CNN said that Obama is not an "emoter" as was Bill Clinton or George Bush.  I get that, I understand that.  But at a time like this, we need and demand that our President, stand up and speak for all Americans who are frustrated, concerned and a bit scared.  It didn't happen.

Instead we had a nice speech by President Obama and then he left (too quickly?).  He was later seen playing basketball in Chicago.  Yes, he is entitled to some down-time.  But, this nation is at crisis - and he seems detached. (Hint - don't take a vacation just after you tour a National disaster.  I know that doesn't seem fair but you were elected President and life is surely not fair.)

It is not too late for Obama.  But the crisis is escalating.  Top Kill didn't work.  More and more oil is washing ashore and is fowling our oceans.  No one can tell us how bad this disaster may be. 

It is like watching a train-wreck in slow motion. 

President Obama - we need you to stand up and say you are mad as hell.

Frank Rich in an article in the New York Times frames it this way (
FOR Barack Obama’s knee-jerk foes, of course it was his Katrina. But for the rest of us, there’s the nagging fear that the largest oil spill in our history could yet prove worse if it drags on much longer. It might not only wreck the ecology of a region but capsize the principal mission of the Obama presidency.
Whatever Obama’s failings, he is infinitely more competent at coping with catastrophe than his predecessor. President Bush’s top disaster managers — the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, as well as the notorious “Brownie” — professed ignorance of New Orleans’s humanitarian crisis a full day after the nation had started watching it live in real time on television. When Bush finally appeared, he shunned the city entirely and instead made a jocular show of vowing to rebuild the coastal home of his party’s former Senate leader, Trent Lott. He never did take charge.
For all the second-guessing, it’s still not clear what else the president might have done to make a definitive, as opposed to cosmetic, difference in plugging the hole: yell louder at BP, send in troops and tankers, or, as James Carville would have it, assume the role of Big Daddy? The spill is not a Tennessee Williams play, its setting notwithstanding, and it’s hard to see what more drama would add, particularly since No Drama Obama’s considerable talents do not include credible play-acting.

I think James Carville (a brilliant political-strategist) is right.  Yell Louder!  As Rich says "... life isn’t fair, and this president is in a far tougher spot in 2010 than his predecessor was in 2005."

Arianna Huffington seems to agree.  Today she says:
Now, I'm a huge Paul McCartney and Beatles fan. But when I saw that the president will be hosting a concert honoring Sir Paul next week, my first reaction wasn't, "I hope they play 'Hey, Jude.'" Given the White House's decidedly tame response to the BP disaster (perfectly summed up by James Carville as "hands-offy"), it was, "Are you kidding me?!" This is not the time for a White House sing-along. It's time to set up a temporary White House in New Orleans until the well is capped. And if there is a concert to be held, why not make it a fundraiser for all those whose lives are being destroyed by the oilpocalypse? We need less of the president's anger-with-no-follow-through and more hands-onny leadership. Without it, Obama risks turning into a real Nowhere Man.
I end with a quote by Thomas Paine.  These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

1 comment:

  1. Teddy Roosevelt:
    "Walk softly, but carry a big stick."

    Obama, known for his cool-under-crisis composure must know that there is little that anyone can say - people are looking for tangible results.
    Yet, there does need to be more of a presence.

    Or, as Colin Powell says, "Decisive action."

    I learned recently, that the Fed Gov. was restricted in how they could respond to an oil spill after Exon Valdez. The reason for the restrictions was to make the Oil companies, not the Fed. Gov., responsible for the clean up.