There is some optimism that the latest effort to cork the oil leak has been successful, but I take it no one is uncorking the champagne bottles just yet. It will be a few days before they know for sure if the leak is permanently plugged.
The Right sees blood in the water, not oil. They are still drooling that the oil leak is “Obama’s Katrina,” which sounds like a great name for a race horse, but never mind. I don’t want to jump too quickly into making long-range comparisons, because people’s perceptions of an event can change over time. But right now, it seems Oil Blob isn’t as damaging to Obama as Katrina was to Bush.
If you go to the “disasters” section of pollingreport.com, and scroll down a bit, you can see the results of post-Katrina polls from 2005. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll taken Sept. 26-28, 2005, had a majority disapproving of the way President Bush handled Hurricane Katrina by 54 to 40 percent, 6 percent unsure. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, taken May 21-23, showed the public disapproving of the way President Obama is handling the oil spill by 51 to 46 percent, with 3 percent unsure.
Now, this could change. If more information comes out that there were things the federal government could have done to stop or slow the spread of oil that were not done, the disapproval spread could increase. I haven’t heard much yet about how much damage the Blob is doing to the fishing and tourism industries along the Gulf Coast, so there could be more bad news ahead.
But, again, if you move up the “disasters” page and look at polls taken early in 2006, it seems disapproval of Bush’s handling of Katrina had grown much worse from what it had been in September 2005. In a poll taken February 2006, 72 percent said Bush had “no plan” to help the people left homeless by Katrina. In April 2006, people disapproved of Bush’s handling of relief for victims by 59 to 37 percent.
IMO the continuing damage to Bush was not just that he didn’t respond well to the Katrina disaster as it was happening; it was that as days and weeks and months went on, the Bush Administration continued to not respond.
Regarding Oil Blob, people are not impressed with the Obama White House’s actions, but they blame BP more. A CBS News Poll of May 20-24 showed people disapproving of the administration handling of the Blob by 45 to 35 percent, 20 percent unsure; but they disapproved of BP by 70 to 18 percent, 12 percent unsure.
My impression at the moment is that the Obama Administration could have been more publicly assertive about the Blob — waved their arms about a little more, as it were — but it’s not clear to me there was more the federal government could have done to lessen the disaster (other than go back in time and force BP to follow safety protocols before it happened). Maybe there was, and if we find out there was then certainly the Obama Administration deserves to be criticized.
On the other hand, someone on another blog asked if the government was supposed to dismiss BP and then send the oil leak a sternly worded warning to cease and desist. Heh.
My sense of the thing is that if the administration is reasonably pro-active in whatever assistance and cleanup is needed in the next few months, then the political damage won’t come anywhere close to the environmental damage. For most of the country the Blob is a big concern but less of an emotional gut punch than the days after Katrina were. And so far, the president hasn’t strutted around grinning like a big doofus telling people they’re doing a heck of a job, when the job obviously was not being done well at all.