By Chad Stafko
After nearly eighteen months in office, the president of the United States has finally encountered his first unforeseen crisis. A gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico combined with seething anger from residents, business owners, and politicians along the coastline has produced a toxic mix of political corrosion that is eroding the president’s political capital. The response to the disaster that we have seen from President Barack Obama should have been expected, as it is simply a byproduct of his experience, or lack thereof.
On Friday, May 28, the president finally managed to make his second trip to the oil-plagued area nearly forty days after the disaster occurred. The president spent only about three hours on site. Three hours! Where were the meetings with the families of those who were killed when the oil rig exploded? Could not a precious hour or two have been spent with those grieving and those who were angry over the explosion?
Why did the president not take a few hours and meet with Governor Jindal, Kevin Costner, and others who are attempting to limit the damage the existing oil may cause to the coastline through innovative means but whose efforts have been limited by the need for government approval? While Jindal has received recent approval for the makeshift sandbars that could help alleviate some damage, the president could be the ultimate red tape eliminator.
But President Obama passed on the opportunity.
Apparently, he was too busy, as he needed to make the trip back to his hometown of Chicago for the Memorial Day weekend. The president’s lack of interest and lack of concern, as evidenced by his lack of actions, is irritating even his fellow Democrats and, in some cases, some of his most ardent supporters. Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu said of the president’s lack of visibility on the oil disaster, “He’s going to pay a political price for it.”
Add to the fray Louisiana resident and longtime Democratic strategist and talking head James Carville, who said earlier in the week of Obama, “This President needs to tell BP: ‘I’m your Daddy, I’m in charge’ … We need some action here, and we need to get this thing moving quickly.”
If President Obama’s perceived and actual lack of action weren’t enough to stoke the anger of coastline residents among other Americans, Obama’s actions on the evening of Tuesday, May 25, at the height of the crisis, fanned the flame. The president of the United States could be found that evening in California at a fundraising dinner and reception for embattled Senator Barbara Boxer. The amount of time President Obama spent in California raising money for a career politician was nearly identical to the amount of time he spent on the frontlines of the worst oil disaster and possibly the worst ecological disaster this country has ever known.
Should we expect more out of our president? Yes. Should we expect more out of this president? No. This is exactly what we should expect from him based on his past behavior.
As you may recall, before ascending to the presidency, Barack Obama was a community organizer. He was not the president of a non-profit group, the leader of a civic organization, or head of a sanitation district, nor did he have any other leadership experience prior to his brief tenure as a senator from Illinois. He had never led an organization through the ups and downs of its existence or had any experience in crisis management. Instead, his experience — most of it in fact — was to gather a group of individuals together and get them irritated toward their city councils, regulatory board, or some other target. Now, he’s on the other side. He and his administration have agitated the people, and they are not happy.
What has been the president’s reaction to the outrage of the people? At times he has stated that the government is responsible and will fix the mess, while at the same time those within the government who are on the frontlines of the oil spill have acknowledged that the government does not have the skill, equipment, or expertise to clean up the spill or cap the leak.
Other times, President Obama simply says that those who are critical of the administration’s response are ignorant of the situation. That’s the mantra for a community organizer — talk first, think later.
This disaster indicates to us as to what we have: a community organizer with little leadership experience or skill as President of the United States.