For almost 40 days, the country waited. We woke up every morning, thinking that this might be the day that our President decided to do something, anything substantial at all, about the incredible plume of oil that was seeping into the Gulf of Mexico.
Instead, we went to bed every night disappointed, left feeling as if it were just some trivial spill that would eventually get cleaned up and have a minimal affect economically, psychologically, and environmentally. We thought the next day, he’d get it. He’d finally come forth and address BP’s horrific mistake (and its rather disheartening, feigned acceptance of the part it has played) and become the figurehead for this calamity that would restore the confidence the American people had in him. Campaign trail Obama is what we were waiting to see. Ferocious, energized, slightly aggressive. Willing to “take on the man”.
But the waiting has ended, and we are now faced with a tragedy that has already surpassed the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
This morning, our country should be waking up with an intense frustration and a red-hot anger with a President that bit his nails and sat on this spill while questions went unanswered, speculation ran rampant, and lives were changing. The very people – the citizens of Louisiana – that have stood behind him, supported him, and elected him—he turned his back on. After a press conference that served as just a pathetic attempt at placating a livid public and an incredulous media, President Obama has, not for the first time, shown his incompetence. Sure, making the point that one of his daughters innocently asked “did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?” brings an element of humanity to your predicament, Mr. President, but you are supposed to be our fearless leader, party politics aside.
This did not have to be a political problem, but that’s what it turned in to. President Obama sat on the sidelines, having aide after aide analyze what to do so he would walk away from this as unscathed as possible. His reputation and poll numbers, not the lives lost or catastrophic damage, were front and center. We saw him fly to San Francisco for a fundraiser, we’ve heard about how he had to change his Memorial Day plans to go down and visit the shore to at least appear as if he cared.
Now, though, the truth will come out, and his incompetency will be a disturbing theme in them all. There’s the story that he hasn’t even taken the time to return the phone call from the Congressman that represents the district of the rig . There’s the painting of a president that seems aloof , almost confused as to what to do next. And then there is even the most faithful of Democrats, James Carville, who has valiantly and loudly blasted President Obama for his almost complete disregard for the situation. For a president that likes to equate himself to the average American, this is epitomizes just how far removed he is from the American public.
We learned from Hurricane Katrina what dithering around, in an almost pseudo-oblivious haze that dumbfounds the average American, can do to not just a region or state, but what it can do to a presidency as a whole. Just as the clean up begins in the Gulf, so to does President Obama’s uphill battle of staking his claim as an authoritative, productive presidency whose aspirations lie with his people—not his politics.
This is a president out of touch. Perhaps the better characterization is detached. His go-to political maneuver allows him to simultaneously maintain the image of power while leaving space to wriggle his way out of blame. It often works. But in this case we needed emotion. We needed to see fear, but not because of the spill’s impact on his approval ratings. We needed to see anger, but not because the press had begun to question his lack of leadership. We needed to see empathy, but not because it is what is expected. Be our fearless leader but show some humanity in the process.
We needed to see all of these things. Instead, we waited.
by Brandon Greife, Political Director of the College Republican National Committee