Friday, June 11, 2010

BP oil spill spill turns media swooning over Obama toxic

BP spill turns media swooning over Obama toxic
By Anthony L. Hall:

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama always seemed indifferent to media pundits swooning over him. But instead of acting scorned, they made a virtue of this diss by propagating a narrative about him as a preternaturally cool, intellectual dude who never gets fazed by anything: remember “no drama Obama”?

Anthony L. Hall is a descendant of the Turks & Caicos Islands, international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who publishes his own weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at offering commentaries on current events from a Caribbean perspectiveWell, that was then. Because these same pundits are now lashing out at him with a vengeance that would make even a woman scorned cringe with embarrassment. No doubt you’ve heard the chorus of criticisms being hurled at this transformative president over his reaction to the BP oil spill off the Gulf Coast of the United States. And to be sure, some of it is warranted:

“[I]f there's any sense in which this BP spill can be fairly called Obama's Katrina, it would stem from his Bush-like failure to send in the cavalry long ago... to prevent the spillover effect it's having on the ocean and Gulf Coast.” (The oil has landed, The iPINIONS Journal, May 24, 2010)

But far too much of this criticism is fickle, hypocritical, and emotionally wrought. Nothing demonstrates this quite like the fact that those who once praised Obama for not feigning emotion for political gain are the very ones now damning him for not acting like a drama queen. Specifically, they want him to show (them) that he’s really “furious” about the environmental catastrophe this spill is causing. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times is the lead vocalist in this respect:

“It’s not a good narrative arc: The man who walked on water is now ensnared by a crisis under water... [U]nless he wants his story to be marred by a pattern of passivity, detachment, acquiescence and compromise, he’d better seize control of the story line of his White House years. Woe-is-me is not an attractive narrative.” (Dowd, New York Times, June 1, 2010)

The real narrative arc of course is that columnists (like Dowd) who once fawned over Obama’s style are now criticizing it. But I hoped Obama would show the same indifference towards their criticisms that he showed when they were swooning over him not so long ago. Because I knew it would be a travesty if he were to try now to emulate that emotional chameleon Bill Clinton — who these same media prima donnas ridiculed for continually feigning emotions to curry political favor.

This is why I thought Obama would do well to ignore the criticisms and just continue doing everything humanly possible to deal with the fallout from this spill. First and foremost, this includes mobilizing every resource at his disposal to limit the heartrending impact on the livelihoods of the people as well as the wildlife and ecosystem of the Gulf. And all indications are that he’s doing just that.

Still, in this respect, Obama recently conceded that he should have seized control for combating the spread of the slick from BP a lot sooner. And BP CEO Tony Hayward only reinforced this fact by making the patently misleading, if not delusional, assertion last weekend that BP is on top of everything — even as crude oil was beginning to defile the white sandy beaches of Florida.

More importantly, though, Obama had better seize every opportunity to be seen doing everything humanly possible to contain and cleanup this spill. Clearly this is why he made quite a show during two recent visits of reassuring people that his administration will still be addressing their concerns in the weeks and months to come when his media critics — who are posturing as their watchdogs today — will have moved on to their next pet peeve. He even canceled a planned state visit to Australia and Indonesia for a second time to avoid any appearance of not paying due attention to this still unfolding environmental tragedy.

“It’s brutally unfair. It’s wrong. And what I told these men and women — and what I have said since the beginning of this disaster — is that I’m going to stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are made whole… We will fight alongside them, until the awful damage that has been done is reversed, people are back on their feet, and the great natural bounty of the Gulf coast is restored.” (Obama, Huffington Post, June 5, 2010)

He quite sensibly continues to remind the American people that the only reason he has not seized control of operations to plug the gushing pipe from BP is that the federal government does not have the deep-water drilling resources or expertise to do any better. He’s also continues to stress the fact that BP will pay not only for the cleanup of this mess but also for all consequential damage to fishing, wildlife, tourism, etc.

“They say they want to make it right. That’s part of their advertising campaign. Well, we want them to make it right... What I don’t want to hear is, when they’re spending that kind of money on their shareholders and spending that kind of money on TV advertising, that they’re nickel and diming fishermen or small businesses here in the Gulf.” (Obama criticizing BP for announcing a $10 billion dividend payout and launching a $50 million ad campaign, Reuters, June 4, 2010)

Yet none of this has appeased his erstwhile media courtiers; no doubt because they just want him to do something that will demonstrate that they have the power to affect him. In this case, they apparently want him to shout obscenities at BP to prove he’s even capable of human emotion.

But I thought Obama was smart and unflappable enough to realize that pissing all over BP will just end up hurting the very people whose cause his critics claim to be championing. As it is, their toxic carping has already caused the company to lose over $80 billion (half of its market value), all of which could have been siphoned off instead in government fines, cleanup costs, and private lawsuits...

Imagine my dismay on Tuesday then, when — as if acting on cue from director Spike Lee to “go off” on BP — Obama used profane language and threatened bodily harm during an interview on NBC’s Today Show:

“I talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers — so I know whose ass to kick.”

At least Clinton was man enough to emote on his own accord instead of doing so like a puppet on the strings of hysterical columnists, wingnut bloggers, and race-baiting filmmakers. This is not the kind of CHANGE we can believe in. What a damn shame...

Frankly, he’s even more na├»ve than Hillary Clinton once accused him of being if he thinks this puppetry will appease Democratic pundits like Dowd and James Carville. Because their disaffection has become so unhinged that they have now joined wingnut Republicans in trying to turn Obama into another Jimmy Carter.

They are doing this by tagging the label of “incompetent” to their spiteful narrative about his presidency. This is why it was probably ill-advised for Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, Obama’s point man in the Gulf, to lament all over TV on Sunday that this oil spill is “holding the Gulf hostage.” Never mind the undeniable truth of his statement.

The notion that Obama is incompetent, however, is belied by the fact that just months ago all of these critics, including begrudging Republicans, were hailing him for the unparalleled competence he displayed in passing historic healthcare reform. A feat they conceded was especially commendable in light of the fact that even his own advisers had bought into the media dirge about this being a lost cause...

Now comes the all too foreseeable irony of Britons complaining about Obama’s criticisms jeopardizing their pensions, which are heavily invested in BP stock. But to this I say get behind the Americans who have been complaining from day one about BP’s corporate greed and recklessness, which have led to eleven being killed, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands being ruined, and the priceless ecosystem of the Gulf Coast of the United States being destroyed.

In any event, I hope for Obama’s sake that this gushing well, which is becoming a metaphor for his hemorrhaging popularity, is a distant memory by the time he launches his reelection campaign for 2012. Because, given the herd-like nature of political opinion (left and right), it’s very easy for this Dowd narrative to seep deep into public consciousness.

Then the fatuous notion that this oil spill is Obama’s Katrina (or worse) will become generally accepted wisdom. And that will surely doom his presidency. (Bear in mind that Katrina landed in 2005 — after Bush had already been reelected in 2004.)

NOTE: BP initially claimed that only 5,000 barrels of oil were gushing from this well each day. But in a BBC interview on Sunday, CEO Tony Hayward said that BP’s efforts to cap the well head have resulted in the capture of 10,000 barrels a day, which is clearly twice the amount BP initially claimed was the total flow. Now BP is claiming that it will soon be capturing up to 30,000 barrels...

In the meantime, we can all see from that riveting spill cam that there has been virtually no reduction in the flow of oil gushing out of that ruptured pipe despite BP’s notoriously feckless efforts. This means that we can believe either BP or our lying eyes. Is there any wonder nobody trusts BP...?

June 11, 2010