Today’s Obama Outrage

Now they’re complaining that President Obama hasn’t picked up the phone, or the blackberry as it were, and called BP CEO Tony Hayward.

Call me crazy, but I think a POTUS outranks a CEO, and as the person responsible for fowling fouling up U.S. waters and beaches I think protocol calls for Tony Hayward to phone President Obama, or whoever in the White House will take the call, not the other way around. And apologizing. Profusely. A little abject groveling wouldn’t have hurt, either.

Agence France Presse reports that BP’s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, has been summoned to the White House to discuss the spill. Rightie Don Suber complains, “instead of talking to the man in charge, he will be talking to the chairman of the board that oversees the man in charge.”

Um, yes.

Suber, by the way, thinks President Sarah Palin would have done a better job dealing with the oil spill. So much for Suber.

Not that President Obama is blameless in this mess. He’s been caught flatfooted by the whole thing, obviously. I have been reading the Rolling Stone article by Tim Dickinson, “The Spill, the Scandal and the President,” and think on the whole it’s a fair assessment, although I haven’t made it all the way through the thing yet.

A couple of days ago some rightie bloggers were high-fiving each other over the Dickenson piece. They especially liked the word “scandal” in the headline. But what has struck me is that Obama has reacted too much as a conservative would have reacted.

First, the White House seems to have assumed BP knew what it was doing and could stop the leak.

Second, the Obama Administration had not cleaned house at the US Minerals Management Service (MMS), but had left in place way too many Bush appointees, people who are too cozy with the oil business to supervise them.

The White House is allowing BP to continue drilling at another deepwater site off the coast of Louisiana, and there is reason to believe that rig is just as likely to have a meltdown as Deepwater Horizon was.

For once, the people who say Obama is “no better than Bush” aren’t too far off the mark, as far as Deepwater Horizon is concerned. The only difference is that Obama has publicly taken responsibility for government’s response to the disaster, and there is no Karl Rove-type operative in the White House trying to use the mess for political advantage. Oh, and so far, President Obama hasn’t posed for a camera wearing a tool belt.

Update: Unrelated to the oil spill — William Kristol has learned that the Obama Administration will support an anti-Israel statement at the UN next week. Alas, if Kristol says this, just the opposite will happen.

25 thoughts on “Today’s Obama Outrage

  1. Sorry to be nitpicky, but “the person responsible for fowling up ” should be “the person responsible for fouling up “… unless that was intended as a pun?

  2. MMS is not the only place that he left too many Bush appointees. OSHA is another example as I noted in this post:

    I fully realize that any incoming administration cannot replace everyone that is a GA-14 and above, there might be 60,000 of them. But they should be able to replace key people.

    Then again, according to Dawn Johnson, the OLC in the DOJ has been without a head for six years.

  3. Yeah, Sarah Moose-olini would have done much better!
    The Alaskan “Oil Welfare Queen” would have sat the CEO of BP down and settled down to making settlements. I can see her now, “Listen, there’s a 75 million dollar max penalty here. We won’t go over that. It wouldn’t be fair to your company. So, let’s see, there’s 300 million people in America, so how about you pony up and send a $.25 cent check to every American, and we’ll call it square. WINK!”
    As for Obama, yes, I hate to admit it, the optics on this weren’t good. I’m not sure what more he could have done, but he could have looked a bit more involved. He did believe BP. But, in fairness, I’m not sure the government could have measured the size of the leak. They had to depend on BP for estimates. It’s BP’s fault that they chose to hide the severity, NOT OBAMA’S! As for MMS, steps have now been taken to break the agency up.
    Maybe the take-away here is to delve deeper into finding the corrupting influences of the Bush appointee’s in ALL government agancies and begin culling the herd. Now, rather than later.
    Still, it’s a catastrophe. And we don’t even know now big a one it is, or will be. I know that I, at least, feel better that Obama is in charge, and not Little Boots, or Hooters Barbie.

  4. Reagan/Gingrich/Clinton/Bush… managed to turn the world’s richest, freest country into a decaying, plutocratic, militarized rogue state. I would be very surprised if Obama, should he even have two terms in which to do it, or any other president for that matter, will be able to correct and change our course. I’m afraid our present ‘condition’ was set in stone way before Obama even got into office.

  5. I don’t really blame Obama fro looking into MMS before this. He’s had a huge financial mess, the ending of one war, the running of a second war, and the pushing of Health Care reform and Banking reform to deal with.

    Obviously I think it would have been a good idea for him to have taken some time to do a little house cleaning, but I can understand why he would tend to leave things alone that SEEMED to be mostly working, in favor of working on things that were clearly, without question, broken almost beyond repair.

    That, plus the fact that the Republicans have kicked and screamed and refused to allow Obama to fill a bunch of the posts the he HAD to fill make it understandable to me why he would not have taken on the extra burdon of firing a bunch more people.

    As for trusting BP, unfortunately, I don’t see he had much choice, at least at the beginning. The oil industry are the folk with the expertise and equipment to deal with this, and BP were the folk with the people and assets on-scene, as well as being the owners of the whole mess.

    The only clear choice I see is to just take the whole thing, lock stock and barrel, and give it to some other oil company to deal with. The obvious advantage to this would be that this other oil company would have no particular reason to lie and cover-up … in fact, the more they publicized it, the more it would hurt their direct rival. There are several problems tho … on order to make that work, you’d have to have BP on the hook to pay every dime of costs incurred by Oil Company X, which would mean Oil Company X would have a financial and strategic incentive for stretching this thing out as long as poissible … but, second, and more importantly, I’m not sure the president actually has constitutional authority to just sieze a bunch of assets… It would have to be looked at carefully.

    Finally, not only does POTUS outrank a CEO, a outranks a COB too. These people are not heads of state, they’re just buisiness folk…


  6. Instead of talking to the man in charge, [Obama] will be talking to the chairman of the board that oversees the man in charge.

    Oh god, really?! That does it, I’m shoving an icepick up my nose and becoming a Republican.

    (btw, Hayward has handed off the disaster within BP, so he isn’t even “the man in charge” anymore. Yet another faux-outrage fail.)

  7. I remember that scene of President Bush looking lost, forlorn, and with a “Who, Me?” look on his face, alone at a conference table as Katrina was going on somewhere else in the country. I wonder if President “Quitter” Palin would even look that good were she in charge. Bush at least knew when to shut up; I’ve yet to see Sarah Palin display even that amount of sense. When the heat is on, Sarah would likely cut and run, as she has countless times before. It wouldn’t make her look good, after all.

    Reagan/Gingrich/Clinton/Bush… managed to turn the world’s richest, freest country into a decaying, plutocratic, militarized rogue state. would be very surprised if Obama, should he even have two terms in which to do it, or any other president for that matter, will be able to correct and change our course…

    All true, but my beef with Obama is that he doesn’t even seem to want to try. In negotiating with the opposition, he immediately gives away the store. He’s squandered countless opportunities to really change things (this blowout in the Gulf is one of them), and I’ve concluded that it’s just not in his character to seize the moment, confront the powers-that-be in their moment of weakness and vulnerability, and do the bold, necessary, reforms that are sorely needed. Either he doesn’t get that they’re necessary, or he thinks he’s not up to the task, and this with Democratic majorities in the Congress. Either way, he is not the guy that was advertised in 2008.

    I forget what I was looking at, but I happened to come across some of his campaign speeches in 2008 – amazing oratory, with people in the audience as energized and as spiritually high as they could possibly be at a political rally – followed by the big letdown that was 2009 to now.

  8. I had a WSJ article pointed out to me that puts a lot of this in focus.

    The gist of the article is that 7 academic ‘experts’ on underwater drilling are POd that the WH consulted them after the Deepwater Whorizon went down – not in a good way – and then the WH made an independent decision for a moratorium on drilling – which is NOT what the ‘experts’ recommended.

    Excuse me – we have an uncontrolled blowout – up to 100,000 barrels per day in the Gulf. The ‘fail safe’ failed completely and the ‘experts’ don’t see cause to shut down new drilling??!!!!!! My conclusion is that the academic experts can no more say ‘NO’ to drilling than the Choir director can take and endorse a vow of silence.

    Someone with more time than I have needs to study how/if the oil companies have been making grants to academic institutions and how the government may have relied on those ‘independent’ experts who have a ring through their nose (funding) and a leash held by big oil.

  9. Moonbat, I’m reminded of South Park episode 1313,” Dances With Smurfs”.

    Doug, I cautiously optimistic about the BP disaster, the best minds in the world are working double overtime to solve it, but we CANNOT allow another.

  10. I think, as moonbat says, Obama is quite willing to cave. I certainly have a problem with that.
    The fact remains that no matter what he would have done you would have heard horror stories from the right. Actually the government not telling private business how to run their stuff is what they advocate continually …..until.
    Government can never do things as well as private business, remember? The fact they want Obama to do anything belies any sincerity in what they pound the rest of the time. Cognitive Dissonance rears its ugly head.

  11. moonbat,
    Yeah, the rhetoric was awesome. The campaign was tight as a drum. I was on a couple of conference calls with him and Plouffe, and I saw him live in Fayetteville. He was very inspiring, needless to say…
    And I don’t understand, after all of this time, knowing that the right will distort any and every thing he does, why he just doesn’t do what he thinks is right.
    I was hoping for a President who thought ‘out of the box.’ I guess that’s just not in his nature. He’s a compromiser and a conciliator at heart. But then, with the House and Senate he has (neither of which have his back), I don’t know what more we could expect, or he could do. If that makes me an “Obamabot,” so be it. I’m a disappointed one.
    Would Hillary have done better? I don’t know. Maybe…
    I’d just like to pose a question to some of the commenters here, with the current political situation in this country, if not him, who?

  12. Gulag, an off-the-cuff answer might be found in The Great Depression and Revolution of 2017.

    Would Hillary have been better? I think she at least would’ve been more willing to scrap with the right, having been through eight years of hell with them. People made much of Obama’s supposed “post-partisanship” because he’s from GenX – but what look at what it’s gotten us. I’m very biased (given my age), but IMO what’s needed is some good old fashioned Baby Boomer partisanship at this point, and that’s what Hillary represented.

    I don’t completely agree with the title of this article, The Do Nothing 44th President (Health Care Reform, such as it is, hardly qualifies as Nothing), but the author does a good at amplifying I think what many of us are feeling:

    …The only thing more grim than the visage of the pathetic Obama administration in non-action is a consideration of the opportunity lost here. Obama had all the cards stacked in his favor, ranging from a destroyed opposition party, to a series of crises, to a public demanding change, to massive majorities in Congress, to global good will. He’s pissed it all away in his unrelenting dedication to mediocrity and inoffensiveness.

    And the only thing more grim than that is to consider where this all leads. Every day I shudder a little more as yet another two-by-four is crow-barred out from the edifice of America’s experiment in liberal democracy. Every time the Supreme Court hands down a decision, it means more power for the state, more power for the imperial president (whom they also select when they feel like it), and especially, more power for the rich. Every day more people are dying in the stupid and endless wars of the twilight empire, for which nobody can even articulate a purpose. Every election cycle more lethally vicious regressives are victorious, crushing common sense and human rights in tandem, moving the country further in the direction of mindless fascism.

    There’s no other word for it. This country is just plain rotting from within.

  13. >> Would Hillary have done better? I don’t know.

    Oh, oh, I know the answer to that one!

    Nope. Not even close. Hillary is even more of a Clinton type Democrat than Obama could ever hope to be (appropriately enough, given her last name…) so she would have all the wrong instincts … but she wouldn’t have Obama’s skill at actually getting stuff done. In other words, everything about Obama that is disappointing to so many people, only more so, and with less genuine skill.

    And other than the two of them, I don’t think there was anybody in the last couple of races that could have done any better.

    Still … Obama’s not really that much of a disappointment to me. I loved his rhetoric in the campaign, I think he says a lot of things that need to be said, and if absolutely nothing else, just having them said in a powerful way is inherently important. But I also knew, looking at his actual campaign promises and proposed solutions to various problems, that this guy was gonna be a centrist. Probably one of the most skilled politicians in my lifetime, but absolutely not a revolutionary.

    My hope for him was that he would run the country in a competent way, bring the democrats back into having a better reputation as potential leaders, give some really good speeches that might be enough to influence some people towards more progressive thinking, and pave the way for more progressive democrats to come at a later date, presuming the progressive population does the right things in pushing in that direction.

    So far, he’s done everything I expected of him and then some. He’s definitely outperformed what I thought he’d be able to do.

    That said, do I wish he was more progressive, more radical, more able and willing to kick the republicans in the teeth while they’re down? Absolutely. But, given the current political situation in the US, and particularly given the political situation in the US in 2007-2008, I don’t think THAT guy would have had a chance in hell at actually making it to the presidency.


  14. I am not at all interested in seeing President Obama become a micro-manager of this oil spill. I remember all too well how Jimmy Carter was enveloped by the Iranian hostage business. His presidency lost momentum because of over-involvement by the top people who should have been managing the entire country, not just one problem. This is a great opportunity for the Republicans to destroy Obama by hounding him to take over a physical situation he has no physical power over.

    Obama’s need at present, IMO, is to get the drilling that must go on inspected and up to standard, have Salazar or somebody who will clean up MMS with a wire brush, certainly stay posted and in contact to an appropriate degree on Louisiana and get on with the business of the rest of the country.

    The Republicans and oil-owned Democrats were not raising hell about the known conditions that led to this till they could profit from it. Let’s all remember that. And STFU, Jindal! At least until you publicly thank President Obama for your stimulus funds.

  15. I’m sorry, but I think Salazar needs to go. I don’t dislike him. But, he’s too tied in with the oil industry, and too complacent. If that’s what’s needed, he might make an appropriate sacrificial ‘lamb,’ if that’s what he is…

  16. …Obama’s not really that much of a disappointment to me. I loved his rhetoric in the campaign, I think he says a lot of things that need to be said, and if absolutely nothing else, just having them said in a powerful way is inherently important. But I also knew, looking at his actual campaign promises and proposed solutions to various problems, that this guy was gonna be a centrist. Probably one of the most skilled politicians in my lifetime, but absolutely not a revolutionary.

    My only quibble with this is categorizing Obama as one of the “most skilled politicians in my lifetime”. Perhaps in his ability to get himself elected, but not in his ability to govern. If he were, he’d be taking advantage of the many openings that were presented to him, to advance his agenda, the change his campaign was supposedly about. Instead, he insists on trying to make peace with people whose only interest is to destroy him. He doesn’t get that he’s at war with an opposition, and so he’s like the brilliant, but clueless-about-real-life nerd who continually gets sand kicked in his face.

    Others might disagree with this, but I would say Bill Clinton was the most skillful politician I’ve ever seen. I didn’t care for his triangulating (but such were the times we were living in – the right was riding high in the 1990s and had yet to be discredited by the disasters of GW Bush), but I remember countless times where he was able to outmaneuver his opposition, which only inflamed them all the more. Bill Clinton is actually another argument for Hillary – who was rather tone-deaf politically herself – as he would’ve been the master strategist behind her throne.

  17. >> Bill Clinton is actually another argument for Hillary – who was rather tone-deaf politically herself – as he would’ve been the master strategist behind her throne.

    So, you’re saying Hillary might have managed to get herself impeached on a minor technicality as well?


  18. But if Bush was still Preznit…”
    I sincerely think this would have been resolved for the better long ago. Not because of Bush The Idiot, but because of us. Honestly, if this had happened with Bush in the WH there would have been demonstrations in the streets by the end of the first week, even the MSM would have been all over the big 3 — Bush, Rove, and Cheney — making them look like idiots. I believe they would have been shamed into taking over and doing something. YouTube would be awash in vids lampooning the WH.

    But we’ve been lulled asleep by having a Democrat in the WH, and obviously not just any Democrat, but a man of history. It makes me think of Mohammad Ali playing rope a dope with his opponents, except we haven’t thrown a single punch. It’s more of a staring contest, and we’re all numb. We can’t believe what we’re seeing. Ask yourselves, what do you think we be doing, saying, blogging, if Bush were in charge and we were not so passive about what is happening.

  19. @Ian – of course they’d go after Hillary. As Gulag has pointed out, being a Democrat is an impeachable offense.

    At the risk of belaboring what’s been already said, there’s a great article over at the Agonist, that yet amplfies all this further:

    …It may be tempting for Democrats to say “if only Bill Clinton could be back in the Oval Office.” He certainly would show more decisiveness than Obama, more grasp of the details to complex problems, more ability to stare down political enemies foreign and domestic, and more emotional connection to ordinary people in trouble. But let’s not forget that Bill Clinton is a creature of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, and every time he talks today about solutions to the financial crisis it is obvious where his sympathy lies: with the financial elite who also happen to support both his party and his personal charities.

    There is hardly anyone in the Democratic Party at the national level who “gets it”, who sees how politics have been corrupted so badly by corporate money that we need a complete upheaval of the whole system in order to deal with problems seriously. Bernie Sanders gets it – the senator from Vermont – but he’s a self-described socialist not taken seriously in Washington. The Tea Party activists get it, at least in a limited way when it comes to objecting to bank bailouts, but they seem otherwise happy living in a society where oligarchs hoard the wealth and exercise power behind the scenes. Some of them, like Ron Paul, are also willing to stand up to the military and the empire (as is Barney Frank lately), even though this is still politically dangerous.

    There are not enough of these people around to break up the Big Four banks, for example. The recent financial reform package does nothing to destroy the Too Big To Fail doctrine, and the thousands of bank lobbyists in the capital (many of whom are ex-congressmen and staffers) are working quietly but effectively to gut other provisions in this bill. It is, in other words, business as usual in Washington, where money speaks last and always wins.

    This is a time when someone like FDR would already have a trust-busting plan in place for the big banks, would be butting heads together in Congress to get the necessary legislation in place, and would be criss-crossing the country building up political support for these reforms. Not Obama. Even if he didn’t have his hands full with the Deepwater Horizon disaster he would still be showing disinterest in pushing for real reform of any sort.

    He is too much part of a system that has to go, and unable to see not only the danger to the country this system represents, but the electoral doom to politicians who continue to think and operate in the old way.

  20. ITDog09:

    I disagree, strongly. The problem is a massive one, requiring engineering that simply was not, and is not, in place, to fix. No amount of outrage and no amount of ass-kicking or public-relations will make the problem any smaller.

    The idea that things could be fixed is a bullshit narrative being pushed by people who want to blame Obama for *something*, and don’t give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut if it’s something he actually has any power over.

    I’ll say the same to those who complain that the “optics” aren’t good and so forth. Quit buying into the bullshit and *think*.

    The problem is that we let people drill into oil reserves deep underwater with fuck-all planning for what to do if something goes hideously wrong, and failed to make them pants-pissing scared over what will happen if something *does* go hideously wrong and we find that they pushed ahead without any safety measures, and now, to no one’s surprise at all, we’re seeing a disaster progress with an inadequate response.

    This *does* remind me about one thing about Katrina: Molly Ivins’ response. She said, essentially, every time you hear someone say they’re not interested in politics? Well, *this* is politics. This is what they say they’re not interested in. The decisions about the levees, about evacuation plans, about setting up FEMA, about rescue operations, etc., etc., etc., were all *political* decisions. And every bored person who just doesn’t care about politics bears a measure of responsibility if they hadn’t tried to make sure that the right people were using the right methods to make decisions about these things.

    I don’t know if we should be looking to roast Obama’s ass for not having checked in with MMS (maybe it wouldn’t have helped, but I sure as fuck hope there’s no Presidential briefing entitled “BP likely to fuck up, cause massive oil spill”) and started the process of cleaning house of (literal) jerkoffs. But once the spill started, blaming his actions, even just for not looking good, is missing the entire point.

    It’s not the spill; it’s the complete apathy and idiocy that occurred *before* the spill that has to concern us.

  21. Remember the often-repeated idea that government will never work under people who don’t want it to work? Describes the W/R/bidness crew/blue dogs perfectly.

    Long Haired Weirdo and Moonbat are onto it, too.

    What we have now is what the W/R/bidness and Wall Street plan produces. Doing things well from the desire to be right and show respect to each other and the country is a quaint notion not germane to the profit motive as practiced by those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  22. For once, the people who say Obama is “no better than Bush” aren’t too far off the mark…

    Wha!?? You don’t drop in for a few months and Maha slowly morphs into Jane Hamsher! Excellent!

    • Wha!?? You don’t drop in for a few months and Maha slowly morphs into Jane Hamsher! Excellent!

      Jane’s problem isn’t that she’s critical of Obama. It’s that her criticism spring from a knee-jerk ideology, not from any thing Obama actually does. I, on the other hand, try to just comment on what Obama actually does. Good or bad.

      BTW, you are an asshole. Goodbye.

Comments are closed.