After concern that the White House was being too deferential
in reacting to the largest oil spill in
U.S. history, on Thursday President Obama held his first major press
in nearly a year to discuss his administration's reaction
to the spill. The "top kill
" strategy for stemming the
leak seems to be working for the moment
, but the oil
already spreading onto the coastline still risks devastating
the Gulf's marine and bird
populations and fundamentally reshaping the ecosystem. All this is leading political pundits to wonder, what
does President Obama's reaction to this crisis reveal about his
personality? Here's what they're saying.
- 'Mix of Resolve and
Regret' The New York Times' Peter Baker finds a "mix of resolve and
regret" as "President Obama uttered three words on Thursday that many of
his 43 predecessors twisted themselves into knots trying with varying
degrees of success to avoid: 'I was wrong.'" Baker recounts the "fairly
unusual presidential self-critique" Obama gave during his press
conference. "Amid deep public frustration and criticism from both sides
of the political aisle, the president sought to assert leadership in
response to a slow-motion disaster emanating from a mile beneath the
- Learning the Limits of Federal Government National
Review's Yuval Levin posits, "[The oil
spill is] like Katrina in that many people's attitudes regarding the
response to it reveal completely unreasonable expectations of
government. The fact is, accidents (not to mention storms) happen. ...
We should expect a firm response from the institutions we have built to
protect ourselves--science, technology, and modern government--but we
cannot expect a perfect response. Not from Bush, and not from Obama."
Levin says that President Obama, and all of us, should be learning that
somewhere there is a limit to the power of federal government.
Not Competent The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan complains,
"He was supposed to be competent." She predicts, "The disaster in the
Gulf may well spell the political end of the president and his
administration, and that is no cause for joy. It's not good to have a
president in this position--weakened, polarizing and lacking broad public
support--less than halfway through his term. That it is his fault is no
comfort. It is not good for the stability of the world, or its safety,
that the leader of 'the indispensble nation' be so weakened."
Takes Responsibility The New York Post's Charles Hurt fumes, "Again and
again, Obama disputed charges made by people on the ground that his
administration has bollixed things up pretty badly. ... This is not
taking 'full responsibility.' It's called claiming to take
responsibility, but without any of those pesky consequences. It is the
- 'Struggling' to Maintain Typical Resolution and
Control The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty declares
Obama "defensive" and "struggling to show he's in control." Since the
spill began, "This [began as] the familiar Obama: resolute and in charge. But
six weeks after the spill began, those words seemed to highlight the
difficulty he has had in convincing the country that he is on top of the
situation. As oil continues to foul the gulf, the conflicting signals
coming from the president and his team have imperiled his reputation for
competence and coolness in the face of crisis."
- He's Not
Polling Well The Economist reports,
"Barack Obama's approval rating of 44% this week is his lowest rating
ever in our polls. ... Only 27% say they have a 'great deal' or 'quite a
bit' of confidence in the administration's ability to stop and clean up
the spill. (They may finally be on their way to stopping it.) In a
vaguer measure, just 40% approve of the way the president is handling
the environment, matching his lowest rating to date."
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