As we pass the 50-day mark of the terrible oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it seems like the more things change the more they stay the same.
As I have previously discussed, sometimes terrible tragedies occur for which even the most diligent administrations cannot prepare. While it can and should be properly debated whether this tragedy is one of those events, our collective priority must be the well-being of our ecosystem and the many Gulf Coast residents who are being impacted. We must also continue to keep the family members of those lost during the initial accident in our thoughts and prayers.
But today we must also explore the attitude and focus of the Obama administration as this terrible tragedy unfolds — seemingly around them.
What President Obama must learn is that his job is more than chief executive — it is also chief communicator. And on that side of the equation, his administration has failed terribly, always seeming to play catch-up when it comes to the unfolding Gulf narrative. At times the president has seemed distant and even disinterested — publicly partying with musicians or welcoming victorious basketball squads to the White House. He has seems oblivious to the fact that many of the cable networks carry his appearances alongside a live box of oil flowing from an underground pipe — poisoning our environment each passing moment he addresses another subject.
In a purely defensive posture, the president has tried to counter such criticisms by saying that he is not in the business of the “theater” but rather the business of leading on behalf of the people. And in a perfect world he would be right. But this is reality — a reality the president himself came to just a few days later when he used his pre-planned zinger about finding the right asses to kick in order to hold people accountable on the spill.
Simply put, the administration is trying everything it can think of to get its arms around this issue. At times, they seem just as concerned with trying to stop the leak of public opinion as trying to figure out a way to stop the Gulf leak from spewing oil.
With poll after poll showing that the public feels that both the administration and BP are equally at fault in not doing enough to get this disaster under control, the Obama presidency finds itself staring at further erosion of the support of a nation that overwhelmingly supported their change agenda. If they don’t resolve this matter by figuring out how the get this leak under control, clean up the habitat and protect Gulf residents from further harm, they may find themselves looking at the kind of political changes reserved for one-term presidencies.
For the good of our nation, especially our neighbors down south, and for his own political viability, President Obama better find a plan and a message that puts an end to a tragedy that is running 24/7 on cable news.
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