The BP oil spill is becoming a litmus test for how people think about Obama. The ability to handle such a matteris hardly a key presidential function (unlike a natural disaster such as Katrina which is a direct responsibility of the federal government.) This doesn’t stop Obama’s critics from trying to find ways to blame him, while generally ignoring all that he has actually done so far in response to the crisis and spreading falsehoods.
George Will even admits that Obama is “being unfairly blamed” for the response to the oil spill but also says “it sort of serves him right.” Will simultaneously admitted Obama is doing all he can under impossible circumstances while also trying to use the issue to raise questions of competence.
I have already responded to other attacks from the right coming from Karl Rove and Peggy Noonan in recent posts. The attacks are not limited to the right. There were also recent attacks from James Carville which made him just came across as another sore loser among the Clintonistas. It’s not the first time the ragin’ cajun mouthed off before thinking.
The Washington Post has reviewed the politics of the issue and fortunately finds that others are being far more rational in their response. Ed Rogers, who worked in the Reagan and Bush I White Houses is more objective about the limitations on the president:
President Obama’s political managers are all being told that the president needs to “do something.” But when he does he becomes more closely associated with the ugly problem and more responsible for the nearly impossible task of stopping the flow and managing a cleanup that will leave most people unsatisfied…
This is a great American tragedy whose political consequences will linger for years. No one will emerge as a hero, savior or indispensable leader. Instead, the revelation of the limits of our technology, leaders, laws and energy options will leave us all frustrated and in a mood to blame everybody involved.
Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center has some more significant insights:
Until now President Obama has avoided serious political damage from the government’s handling of the spill, but this may be changing. Recent polling finds pluralities or majorities of the public disapproving of the administration’s response or giving it low marks for its handling of the situation. Even among Democrats, ratings of the administration’s performance have been tepid. The spill is unfolding at a time of exceptionally low levels of trust in government, which may make the public even less forgiving.
Still, unlike Hurricane Katrina, where the government had primary responsibility for dealing with the crisis, until now its role has been secondary to that of BP. And the public has been far more critical of BP for its handling of the crisis.
Although the spill may cause Obama political damage in the short run, it could help him in the longer run with key legislative priorities for his administration: the passage of a comprehensive energy bill and efforts to address environmental protection more generally. The spill has spurred an increase in support for environmental protection, which had declined over the past two years as concerns about the economy pushed aside many other public priorities. While polling by Pew Research and other organizations continues to find at least plurality support for offshore oil drilling, the level of support is much lower than before the spill.