American Elephants

Taking Credit for the Actions of Others Does Not Demonstrate “Cool Competence.” by The Elephant's Child

Politico reports that the “White House is in a P.R. ‘panic’ over spill.” See the video accompanying the Politico article.

The ferocious oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening President Barack Obama’s reputation for competence, just as surely as it endangers the Gulf ecosystem.

Once again, it’s all about him.  “Hope and change,” Politico says, “was Obama’s headline message in 2008, but those atop his campaign have always said that it was Obama’s cool competence — exemplified by his level-headed handling of the financial meltdown during the campaign’s waning days — that sealed the deal with independents and skeptical Democrats.  The promise of rational, responsive and efficient government is Obama’s brand, his justification for bigger and bolder federal interventions and, ultimately, his rationale for a second term.”  Talk about spin!

“Have the reporters not noticed” asks Jennifer Rubin, “that those bigger and  bolder federal interventions are what is driving down his and the Democrats’ popularity? The panic,…is indicative not of the magnitude of the issue or the reaction of the public…but instead of the obsession of this administration …with spin, image, and communication as the answer to every challenge Obama faces.”

What is interesting is what isn’t panicking the White House. The “we have no plan” Iran memo from Robert Gates doesn’t panic them. SCUD missiles in Syria only engenders “deep concern.” Sky-high unemployment figures with little prospect of robust job creation? Yawn.

No one thinks the administration is responsible for the spill or the explosion.  They are only responsible for preparedness.  Other than burning the oil on the surface, there’s not much the government can do, but though there was a plan, there were no booms. All of the action and efforts to control the disaster fall on the experts from the industry.  They have the equipment and the expertise. But Obama here does what he has often done before. He simply moves in and takes credit for what others have done. He was right on top of it “from Day One.”

The Washington Post calls it a “challenge of message management.”  After saying that the President (9 days later) had no plans to go to Louisiana, the President sent off Admiral Mullen, Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Salazar, Director Lisa Jackson of the EPA, Obama’s Assistant for Energy and Climate, and the Administrator of NOAA,  whose name escapes me.  All of whom repeated at every opportunity “from Day One.” And a fat lot of good six additional politicians will do.

The big deal, unfortunately is not the missing and dead oil rig workers, nor the potential damage to the Louisiana gulf coast, but, as the Washington Post says: “handled right, these two crises (the failed bombing) have the potential to restore an increasingly skeptical public’s faith in Obama… Bungled, either or both could go down as his administration’s Hurricane Katrina.”

The offshore oil rigs are in the jurisdiction of the federal government.  The Gulf Coast, deluged by Hurricane Katrina, was under the legal jurisdiction of the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Let’s try not to play politics with disasters, but just be helpful and, um, honest.

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