If ever there was a test of President Obama’s vision of government — one that cannot solve all problems, but does what people cannot do for themselves — it is this nerve-racking early summer of 2010, with oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and far too many Americans out of work for far too long.Howie P.S.: Just wonderin' if The Great Lady ever called out GW like this. I quit reading it a regular basis long ago.
The country is frustrated and apprehensive and still waiting for Mr. Obama to put his vision into action.
The president cannot plug the leak or magically clean up the fouled Gulf of Mexico. But he and his administration need to do a lot more to show they are on top of this mess, and not perpetually behind the curve.
It is well within Mr. Obama’s power to keep his administration and Congressional Democrats focused on what the economy needs: jobs and stimulus. Voters are anxious about the deficit. But the president needs to tell them the truth — that without more spending the economy could remain weak for a very long time.
Unless Mr. Obama says it, no other politician will. Just the other day, the House passed an unemployment benefits extension from which Democrats, not Republicans, had stripped vital measures that would have helped lots of Americans, but did not close a tax loophole for billionaires.
Americans need to know that Mr. Obama, whose coolness can seem like detachment, is engaged. This is not a mere question of presentation or stagecraft, although the White House could do better at both. (We cringed when he told the “Today” show that he had spent important time figuring out “whose ass to kick” about the spill. Everyone knew that answer on Day 2.)
Any assessment of the 44th president has to start with the fact that he took office under an extraordinary burden of problems created by President George W. Bush’s ineptness and blind ideology. He has faced a stone wall of Republican opposition. And Mr. Obama has had real successes. He won a stimulus bill that helped avert a depression; he got a historic health care reform through Congress; the bitter memory of Mr. Bush’s presidency is fading around the world.
But a year and a half into this presidency, the contemplative nature that was so appealing in a candidate can seem indecisive in a president. His promise of bipartisanship seems naïve. His inclination to hold back, then ride to the rescue, has sometimes made problems worse.
It certainly should not have taken days for Mr. Obama to get publicly involved in the oil spill, or even longer for his administration to start putting the heat on BP for its inadequate response and failure to inform the public about the size of the spill. (Each day, it seems, brings new revelations about the scope of the disaster.) It took too long for Mr. Obama to say that the Coast Guard and not BP was in charge of operations in the gulf and it’s still not clear that is true.
He should not have hesitated to suspend the expanded oil drilling program and he should have moved a lot faster to begin political and criminal investigations of the spill. If BP was withholding information, failing to cooperate or not providing the ships needed to process the oil now flowing to the surface, he should have told the American people and the world.
These are matters of competence and leadership. This is a time for Mr. Obama to decisively show both.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
NY Times: "The President’s Moment"
NY Times editorial: