White House (unnecessary) P.R. panic over Gulf of Mexico oil spill
Yesterday, the Politico had an interesting story entitled "White House in P.R. 'panic' over spill".
It's an odd story and I find fault with most of it, though maybe not in a way most readers of these pages might expect.
The article starts off with this: "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." Although Barack Obama is still much more popular than his party and more popular than most politicians, his disapproval ratings are at the highest levels of his brief presidency, and I simply don't see where he has a "reputation for competence." He has a reputation for many things: Stridency, partisanship, and yes, getting legislation passed by ramming it down the unwilling throats of Americans. But competence? I don't think so.
Politico's writers continue: "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." Again, my response is "Huh?" Rational? Efficient? How could anyone think that the biggest spender in American history is efficient?
It's as if Politico's writers are part of a pro-Obama public relations (propaganda) campaign.
Perhaps these writers are so drunk on their own Kool-Aid that they worry about damage to Obama's apparent reputation -- one I didn't know he had -- as if it were damage to their own reputation. It leads them to fret about how the public is viewing the federal government's response to the Gulf oil spill and whether voters will be angry that the administration didn't act faster:
"In fact, conversations at the time of the spill on April 20 show that West Wing aides were worried about the rig tragedy from the moment it was reported. Even before the scope of the disaster was clear, these aides knew that it would undermine, if not reverse, Obama’s support for increased offshore oil drilling."
Clearly, the federal government made some mistakes in the response, especially with long-term pre-positioning of assets capable of dealing with a spill (whether in terms of containing it or lighting it on fire.) But it was not obvious during the first couple of days that this would turn into the disaster it has become. So even though I think the Obama Administration is as close to a political curse as this nation has suffered since Jimmy Carter, it's not Obama's fault that there was an explosion or subsequent bad weather making containment or burning all but impossible.
As far as saying that aides were worried about Obama's support for increased offshore oil drilling, well that just proves that these writers are functioning as part of the administration's Ministry of Propaganda. First of all, the idea that that's what anyone at the White House would be thinking about is ridiculous, with the possible exception of during the first few minutes after the spill. Furthermore, is there likely one White House aide to the right of Van Jones, i.e. one aide who, along with their boss, wouldn't love the opportunity to torpedo the thin veneer of support for drilling which Obama recently pretended to have? Actually, to be fair, Obama doesn't want to torpedo offshore drilling yet. He first wants to use his bogus support as a bargaining chip to get cap-and-trade passed. Now that he won't be able to, maybe he'll just go back to being his genuine oil-hating self.
The administration is now firmly in the mode of "protesting too much" as the video below shows, with administration officials finding a way to get the phrase "from day one" into every paragraph, if not every sentence, of every answer:
I think they're making a big mistake. They're so afraid of being painted with the same brush of incompetency that tarred (somewhat unfairly, because much of the incompetence was within the Louisiana and New Orleans governments) the federal response to Hurricane Katrina that they're spending all their time focusing on blame, i.e. blaming BP while saying over and over and over that the administration is not to blame.
The problem is that blaming the administration was probably not high on most people's list of things to do, especially this early in the crisis. By focusing so much on the timing of their response, the administration is causing people to think about the timing of the response much more than they might have otherwise.
Perhaps in the same way that habitual liars always think that a person is lying to them, the habitually incompetent are always wondering whether people will realize that they are indeed living examples of the Peter Principle in action.
The spill was not the administration's fault. Their response has been no worse than we've come to expect from the federal government (which is to say bad enough to make me wonder why anyone wants the federal government involved in anything beyond the military) in terms of actually dealing with the spill, but wholly political, paranoid, and ridiculous in terms of dealing with appearances. Articles like those by Politico which try to present the administration as unappreciated heroes with only the best of intentions simply serve to magnify the ridiculousness of this ultra-political White House and its outsourced Ministers of Propaganda.
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