The absence of leadership


This blog is obviously strong left leaning, and with good reason: For the most part, the Republican Party is one of evil intent and evil deeds; one that ignores the poor and suffering in favor of the wealthy and corporate. Throughout its recent history, dating back to the so-called Reagan Revolution that included allowing large companies to run fidcally amock and ignored AIDS victims, the Republican Party has perfectly symbolized selfish, arrogant leadership. Social programs that help people? To hell with ’em—we need more tax cuts!

And yet …

Right now, Barack Obama is looking pathetically weak. The Gulf of Mexico disaster has been going and going and going … and where in the world is our president? In times of strife, people require strong leadership and, if nothing else, an image of strong leadership. Yet as the excellent David Gergen has repeatedly noticed, Obama has been largely invisible. No emergency speeches. No public demands of accountability. No new ideas or brainstorming. Nothing.

Here’s James Carville’s take: “The President of the United States could’ve come down here, he could’ve been involved with the families of these 11 people [who died on the rig after an explosion]. He could be commandeering tankers and making BP bring tankers in and clean this up. They could be deploying people to the coast right now. He could be with the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard … doing something about these regulations. These people are crying, they’re begging for something down here, and it just looks like he’s not involved in this. Man, you got to get down here and take control of this! Put somebody in charge of this thing and get this moving! We’re about to die down here!”

Is it possible, behind the scenes, the president is doing what’s needed? Perhaps. But the presidency is not a private gig. People want to see that you’re busting ass. They want to know it. They are crying for it.

A couple of days ago the Republicans started calling this Obama’s Katrina. I thought it was ludicrous then. Now, however, they might have a political point. This will be used against the man, and it probably should be. The oil disaster is his biggest test as a president, and he seems to be failing. Badly.

9 thoughts on “The absence of leadership”

  1. Obama’s biggest test, by far, has been getting health care reform passed. He aced that test. I think he deserves a bit more faith on the oil spill.

  2. I think it’s more a question of “How can we engage in an activity that can produce such disastrous consequences without being absolutely sure we can fix the problem that causes those consequences?” Our friends on the right can call this Obama’s Katrina, but wasn’t it Sarah Palin (your favorite) who shouted Drill Baby Drill! ???

  3. What do you want him or the federal government to do? Sad fact is oil companies like BP have built and oversee this technology for offshore rigs, and they’re the ‘experts’ at fixing what goes wrong.

    This disaster is out of the fed government’s league — the U.S. doesn’t have the tech or resources to clean it up and stop the gusher. This is what happens with lax regulation that leaves the oversight in the hands of the companies themselves.

    I do agree that it would be good politics for President Obama to spend as much time as he can in the Gulf region and pose for the money shots of him with his arm draped around the people coping with this tragedy.

    But his administration’s rhetoric has been tough — “we’ll keep our foot on the necks of BP” — and we already have numerous overhauls underway to the regulatory system for overseeing offshore drilling.

  4. Obama is hopelessly tone deaf when it comes to the public image aspect of being president.

    I have no doubt that behind the scenes, he IS busting his ass. But, going back to the health care debate, he doesn’t seem to understand that being a leader is not just about doing things; it also is about showing people that you are doing things.

    I’m not sure how much of a political nugget this is for the GOP, though. They’re the ones who spew nonsense about “drill, baby, drill.” Now they are going to bash Obama over this, and thus highlight the perils of offshore drilling? Hard to see them doing that.

    And also hard to see them turning into outraged environmentalists over the damage this spill has caused. This would be a much more potent political issue is this were a Republican president screwing up.

  5. I thought people want less government involvement in their lives?

    I mean, this is corporate America doing what it always has done…screw America.

    Now the Republicans are crying foul because Big Brother hasn’t jumped in with both feet?

    I just don’t get it.

    Why blame Obama? Who put BP in the Gulf of Mexico without any oversight?

    Who pushed for more off-shore drilling?

    I read something within the last week where Obama said he was going to hold BP to task and he was ripped for it. I mean, he can’t win, regardless what he does.

    This country is ridiculous.

  6. I just looked up “shameless” in the dictionary and saw a picture of Jeff Pearlman.

    Wasn’t Jeff Pearlman the guy who, just a few days ago, complained that American politics had devolved to sound bites and polarization? And now he says the Republican Party, and the 100,000,000 or so American adults who describe themselves as conservative or conservative-leaning, possess “evil intent” and pursue “evil deeds.” Totally shameless.

  7. I’m a little disappointed in how Obama has dealt with this. People are hurting and it is important for the President to give those people support.
    Reality is I don’t know how much more impact he could have. The important part is letting the people know America cares about them.

  8. It’s strange because Obama’s leadership style seemed liked the polar opposite of this in his campaign. But that’s the problem with modern politics – it’s all about seeming to be something, rather than actually being it. It’s all about crafting an image and selling it. That’s always been there, I’m sure, but leaders like FDR, Churchill, Eisenhower and even JFK knew and believed they had to have substance behind their image. They believed in being Statesman. Todays pols are more and more only about crafting the image to get the power and the people be damned.

    Like others here, I’m sure his administration is doing all it can in the practical sense, and there probably isn’t much they can do at that. But I have to agree with you, Jeff, that the president’s absence from the scene is glaring and a big let down. Churchill and Roosevelt made incredible, inspiring speeches at the darkest times. Why can’t leaders do that anymore?

  9. I’ve got the answer…Obama needs to head to the Gulf and post a big banner, “Mission Accomplished.”

    It would serve the same effect as Bush’s grandstanding declaring the war in Iraq over.

    Me…just get the job done. To hell with the grandstanding.

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