The death of the myth of Obama’s competence?
What can our president say about his own lackadaisical response to the BP oil spill catastrophe?
As pointed out by Toby Harnden in a devastating piece in the Telegraph , Obama’s only recourse is to lie:
Even judging Obama by his words, he has fallen woefully short over what has now eclipsed the 1989 Exxon Valdez wreck as biggest oil spill catastrophe in American history. He may have described it as an “unprecedented disaster” in last Thursday’s press conference but a week into the crisis he was blithely stating that “this incident is of national significance” and rest assured he was receiving “frequent briefings” about it.George W Bush’s unpopularity and perceived incompetence was encapsulated by the way he dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Candidate Obama branded it “unconscionable incompetence”.
Central to Obama’s appeal was his promise to be truly different. His failure to achieve that is now at the core of the deep disappointment Americans feel about him. At the press conference – the first full-scale affair he had deigned to give for 309 days – he appeared uncomfortable and petulant.
His approach to the issue was that of the law student suddenly fascinated by a science project. He displayed none of the visceral indignation Americans feel about pretty much everything these days – two-thirds now say they are “angry” about the way things are going – resorting instead to Spock-like technocratic language and legalese. “I’m not contradicting my prior point,” he stated at one juncture. During those 63 minutes of soporific verbosity, about 800 barrels of oil poured into the Gulf.
Harnden includes the Sestak scandal as adding to the perception that whatever claim Obama had to being “competent” has flown out the window with the twin scandals.
Is this wishful thinking on Harnden’s part? There is a segment of the press that appears to have given up on Obama and feels no compunction about highlighting his shortcomings. But as long as most of the major media is willing to carry water for the president – covering for his mistakes in these and other matters – the public will be satisfied with pretty much whatever Obama does.
In short, the media has not deserted Obama. It remains to be seen whether the continued environmental disaster and the government’s inadequate response to it will become obvious and unleash anger in the president’s direction. If that happens, the press will be forced to change its tune and the president’s already low approval numbers will sink even further.