On yesterday’s edition of the Matt Lewis Show, Matt and I discuss the President’s handling of the BP oil spill from a message standpoint, given that some are trying to hang the spill around his neck the way the left used Katrina to underscore the claim of President Bush’s incompetence.
Unlike that oil washing up on the Gulf shore, that charge isn’t going to stick for three big reasons:
1. There’s another “bad guy.”
Katrina was a natural disaster, but that doesn’t stop the assignment of blame. And with incomparably incompetent local officials like New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin far too sympathetic for blame, President Bush and global warming bore the brunt of people’s frustrations.
The oil spewing from the ocean floor may be natural, but the hole is not. It was dug by one of the American left’s favorite bad guy archetype, an oil company. Oil companies make the news for three reasons: oil spills, exorbitantly high gas prices, or exorbitantly high profits.
For all Obama’s fumbling in response to the spill, he did not cause it. As long as there’s a choice between him and
2. President Obama is very good at deflecting blame.
When critics claimed that spending $787 billion was no way to climb out of debt, the current President blamed his predecessor for flawed economic policies – just before instituting similar policies and claiming to have “rescued” the economy. When administration officials were asked how the Christmas Day Underoo Terrorist slipping through security and nearly pulled off the first terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, the reply noted that the “policies and procedures… are ones that we inherited.” From evil insurance companies to evil “Wall Street” entities, the Obama administration has been very adept at assigning a responsible party for all of America’s ills. In the Gulf, not only does Obama have an oil company to blame, but a previous administration which was perceived to be extremely friendly to oil companies.
3. There is no photographic evidence.
A picture says 1,000 words, and this picture did all the talking any Bush’s opponent needed to do in damning the Katrina response:
The picture says it all. Bush didn’t care. Bush watched from afar while New Orleans flooded. Bush looked over the mess created by Katrina the way a 12-year old would look down and try to find his house just after takeoff. George Bush doesn’t care about black people.
President Obama – much more careful about optics than his predecessor – has not allowed such an image. This may seem like a minor detail, but one picture of President Obama on a golf course juxtaposed with a picture of dry docked shrimp boats would send the same message – and provide fodder for Republicans in 2010 and 2012.
The bottom line: this is not Obama’s Katrina. Barack Obama may be a one-term President, but it won’t be because of the oil spill gets hung on his neck. If the BP mess does hurt, it will be the result of American voters connecting the dots and realizing that the government’s inability to stop the spill is a sign that government power has its limits.