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Tilting at Windmills

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May 4, 2010

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH 'COMPETENCE'?.... Like John Cole, I found this Politico piece to be rather bizarre.

The ferocious oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening President Barack Obama's reputation for competence, just as surely as it endangers the Gulf ecosystem.

So White House aides are escalating their efforts to reassure Congress and the public in the face of a slow-motion catastrophe, even though it's not clear they can bring it under control anytime soon.

Someone's going to have to explain this one to me. A disaster caused by an explosion on a BP oil rig brings the administration's competence into question? In what universe does this make sense?

The federal response to the still-unfolding crisis has been as effective as it can be under impossible circumstances. The administration didn't approve this rig, wasn't the one ignoring the need for remote-control acoustic shutoff switches, and didn't spend eight years downplaying the need for regulations and oversight of the oil industry. Federal officials responded as quickly as they could, with as many resources as they could.

Unless Politico expects the president to don a cape and fly around the planet really quickly in order to reverse time, it may have unreasonable expectations of what any administration is capable of in a situation like this.

Indeed, what is it, exactly, that Obama should do to prove himself worthy on this particular disaster? Unable to find actual, substantive administration missteps to complain about, far-right media personalities have been reduced to bizarre conspiracy theories. Even congressional Republicans -- generally desperate to hit the White House with anything they can find -- haven't had much to say, in part because they still love drilling, and in part because they apparently can't think of anything specific to criticize.

The president has been responding effectively to a rash of crises since the day he took office. At this point, I'm more inclined to question Politico's competence than Obama's.

Update: In reference to my Superman joke, Atrios reminds me, "In fairness, Obama did tell us that he was the son of Jor-El." Good point; I'd forgotten about that.

Steve Benen 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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Didn't you hear?

Politico makes the god damn reality now...

They inherited the job from the Bush administration...

Posted by: neill on May 4, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but...they won the morning news cycle, so....WIN!

Posted by: Michael on May 4, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, haven't you heard? The BP oil rig explosion is Obama's Katrina.

Because... because.... well, because....

Well, just because, that's why!

Just ask any winger, they'll be glad to tell you.

Posted by: Gummo on May 4, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

The Right Wing! Where our motto is, "Keep you damn government hands out of our business until we fuck it up and need saving."

Posted by: doubtful on May 4, 2010 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I honestly don't remember anyone trying to blame GHW Bush for the Exxon Valdez. Our discourse is so debased.

Posted by: Barbara on May 4, 2010 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

This can not be repeated enough, Mike Allen is one of the most transparently rightwing hacks in the media.

Posted by: Napoleon on May 4, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Politico is just another pro-Repub media outlet, haven't you figured that out yet?

Next, another report on Rasmussen polling and the impending loss for Democrats.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 4, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should have blamed the catastrophe on Hugo Chavez and then used that as a pretext to invade Iran.

Posted by: qwerty on May 4, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

The president has been responding effectively to a rash of crises since the day he took office.

This is precisely the point. When Bush took office, The Onion ran this headline: "At last our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over." When Obama won the election in 2008, their headline was: "Black man given nation's worst job."

Truer words were ne'er spake.

Posted by: chrenson on May 4, 2010 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

If only Obama had ordered the National Guard to deliver water and medical supplies to the bottom of the ocean none of this would have happened!

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on May 4, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, this is a simple-to-understand appeal to low-information voters:

Bad thing happens.
Obama is President.
Anything else bad that ensues is his fault.

Posted by: Eeyore on May 4, 2010 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Politico's competence at spewing idiotic wingnut talking points is unequaled.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on May 4, 2010 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

Any minute now this will completely dwarf the disaster and incompetence that was Katrina.

Posted by: SaintZak on May 4, 2010 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

A disaster caused by an explosion on a BP oil rig brings the administration's competence into question? In what universe does this make sense?

The incompetence is obvious:

under the theory of American exceptionalism, America can do anything, and do it faster and better than anyone else. Why then is obama not swooping in with the exceptional capabilities of America to fix this thing within days if not hours. Obviously, obama is not competent enough to summon the 'America is the Very Greatest Evah' Gods to fix this thing. He's leaving it to mere mortals, some of which might not even be America.

Posted by: pluege on May 4, 2010 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Devil's advocate: I think their point, however, questionable, is that the Obama administration's competence is being tested by how they handle the crisis, not that they caused it.

Posted by: Jeff on May 4, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's important to remember that Katrina was Bush's Katrina because it crystallized all of the things that was wrong with the Bush administration - the "heckuva job" cronyism, the lying ("No one thought the levees would be breached"), the indifference (playing the guitar, observing the destruction from 30,000 feet).
When Katrina happened, millions of people finally understood that what Bush's opponents were saying about his incompetence was true.
Whatever Obama's response to the oil spill, it hasn't proved he is a communist foreign-born usurper terrorist.

Posted by: RZ on May 4, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who says that this oil rig disaster is Obama's Katrina is full of crap!

It is Obama's 9/11!!!

Just as the Bush administration should have been aware of and planning for an Al Qaeda terrorist attack, the Obama administration should have shown awareness of the Cheney terrorist group planning the downfall of corporate responsibility and setting the stage for corporate environmental terrorism.

That Obama had not shown this awareness and did not plan for the Al Cheney terrorist attack is his 9/11!

Posted by: SadOldVet on May 4, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

It's another lie that they float our there to see if it grows legs. The Coast Guard was on the case right away, as is their responsibility, to deal with the oil slick. All of the problems with the rig and the leak are the reponsibility of BP. The US does not have a "Fix oil leaks on the sea bottom floor" agency.

Posted by: Mudge on May 4, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican Talking points are that Obama took 9 days before going there (as if Brownie had been in charge and doing a heck of a job the previous 8 days)

Posted by: curm on May 4, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Check the reader comments for the article and your heads will explode!

Posted by: Giggs on May 4, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone bothered to point out that those big orange boats with the water-cannon thingies shooting water on the flaming rig the DAY IT CAUGHT FIRE were Coast Guard vessels and were the beginning of the federal response that continued unabated up to the present?

So, the federal authorities were the first responders and haven't stopped responding since. How much faster can they respond than that? I mean, come on. Even the President of Plaquemines Parish (no liberal he, let me assure you) said that the feds were on top of things and that he couldn't ask for a more responsive bunch to be involved. He also praised BP's responsiveness.

Of course, this can only be good news for Republicans.

Posted by: Sinister eyebrow on May 4, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Have you not been paying attention to how a new right wing "fact" is born? They "make their own reality".

It starts with a secret talking point made up by the geniuses of the conservative movement(Frank Luntz and Karl Rove). The talking points get emailed to every talk radio host and conservative blogger. From there it goes to Drudge and FOX News. Then it is given "legitimacy" by Politico and it becomes a well known "Fact" that gets reported by "Mainstream news" outlets.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Facts have a well know liberal bias, so they have to make up their own.

In our reality, the government was on site to the well explosion in hours (Coast guard) Deputy Interior Secretary was sent down there the next day.

In their reality it took nine days for the government to do anything about it. I have no idea where the nine days came from but it's the new "fact" on the right.

Posted by: atlliberal on May 4, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans and their minions decided as soon as Obama was elected that they were going the pull out all the stops, a full court press. That is the game they are playing.
They know they are lying!

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it people will eventually come to believe it. Joseph Goebbels

Posted by: EDR on May 4, 2010 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Politico is really a third rate website. No need, really, to pay attention to almost any of their 'reporting.'

Posted by: brenp on May 4, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Many of the same people who have yelled "get government out of my way", are now begging for a massive federal response.

There is no indication that Obama reacted slowly to this on-going disaster.

The problem is Halliburton and it's corporate arrogance. They messed up near Australia just last year!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on May 4, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

"..[the administration didn't spend eight years downplaying the need for regulations and oversight of the oil industry".

Bullshit. OK, the Obama administration has only been in office for 117 months. But the democratic party has spent the past 30 years in alliance with the GOP to deregulate industry after industry in this country. To the point where it has been rendered virtually indistinguishable on that score from the republican party.

Posted by: JW on May 4, 2010 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Or maybe it's only been 17 months.

Posted by: JW on May 4, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

The NYTimes editorial today seems to think there should have been more speed by the US government. In fact, they're fairly pointed in saying so.

Posted by: Tomm on May 4, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Republican reality would make a fun Game Show.

Possible titles

"It could be true for all you know?"

"I'm just sayin"

"Anything's possible."

"Prove it!"

"Fantasy Politics"

"Facts are for Democrats"

"Suck my reality?"

the possibilitie are endlessly entertaining.

Posted by: Scott F. on May 4, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

At the end of the day the clean up is a distraction. I get tired of chagrined oil executives saying they will clean up the spills; didn’t their parents read them “Humpty Dumpty” when they were kids? Some things just cannot be put together again. NPR interviewed an expert this morning who stated only 10% of the Exxon Valdez oil was ever cleaned up. And this was in a sheltered sound, not the open gulf, with a shore consisting rocky beaches, not wet lands. What booms are available will be in place when the oil hits shore. The skimmers will be there and do what they can. The birds will be cleaned as best they can. The real problem is the attitude of the oil industry and the lack of oversight promulgated by the Republicans during the Bush era.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on May 4, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

holy crap. has anyone read the first 20 or so comments at the article's link??? i now know why politico plays towards this shit. all their readers are wingnuts.

Posted by: paramedicx on May 4, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, reading the comments section on that article was like visiting an alternate reality - Bitterville, USA.

It's like RedState all over again. How do people that stupid learn to form words, much less sentences?

They're surely allergic to facts in that echo chamber.

Posted by: Jilli on May 4, 2010 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Politico wants 'Drudge links' & I'm sure they racked them up with that piece.

Have you read the comments over on that piece? They're almost over 1,000 now and it looks like most are put in by sock puppets (ie they use the exact same layout in complaining about previous commentators). Politico has gone way too far for Fox News, now they are closing in on TeaBagging nirvana.

Posted by: kindness on May 4, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK


I read the first couple of pages. So ridiculous.

They want the government to keep its hands off business right up until they think they can score political points. They are mad that Obama didn't have a fire boom handy. Why the fuck didn't the glorious free market have a fire boom?

And the thing that just destroys my faith in humanity is that the Politico comments section is usually filled by people saying that Politico is left-wing and in the tank for Obama. I guess these are the same people who say Fox is left-wing.

Posted by: Politco Hater on May 4, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Even though SadOldVet's comment above appears tongue in cheek, I actually think it touches on an element of truth.

The Bush administration spent 8 years systematically dismantling all corporate regulations, with an emphasis on environmental regulations. Was any of this a secret?

Any competent Democratic President that honestly disagreed with the Bush administration's deregulation mania should have made it a top priority to review all key environmental regulatory decisions.

I'm getting a little tired of the "give Obama more time" excuses. Obama has been President for over a year. His administration found the time to cheerlead for more off-shore drilling. Too bad it couldn't find the time to discover that the current regulations allowed such drilling to occur without key safety protections. But if the Obama administration couldn't figure that out in a year, why should I assume that they would get around to it in 4 or 8 years?

Either Obama lacks an adequate commitment to effective environmental policies or he is not completely competent. Pick your poison.

Posted by: square1 on May 4, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK


Can you hear me now?

Posted by: JPS on May 4, 2010 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

The NYTimes editorial today seems to think there should have been more speed by the US government.

If the NYTimes and their peers had shown more speed in discovering that the Iraq war was a bad idea, we might have avoided that catastrophe. They only had a year and a half to learn the facts.

Posted by: qwerty on May 4, 2010 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican Party has become a zoo, Fox is the monkey house and its talking heads are primates throwing fecal matter.

Posted by: Skip on May 4, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

It's been how many days since the explosion? And the oil still keeps spilling out. The fed response is right up there with Katrina, "we're doing everything we can", it's just that, evidently, it does not amount to much. Not to mention that Obama started the crisis by deferring to BP, allowing it to lead the cleanup ops, on the grounds they are "the experts". Par for the course, given this administration's willingness to let corporate criminals escape responsibility.

And where was Obama for the last year plus? If the US response capability is inadequate, it is Obama's duty to fix it. Likewise, I am not seeing anything even remotely suggesting Obama wants to push for increased safeguards against future spills. He just wants the whole thing to go away so that he can quietly reinstate his "drill baby drill" policy.

Posted by: Mike J. on May 4, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

What Obama should be criticized for is not the Federal response to this disaster.

What Obama should be criticized for is his decision prior to this disaster to open much more of the USA's coastlines to utterly unnecessary off-shore drilling, and for embracing the oil corporations' lies that off-shore drilling is, or ever can be, "safe".

Expanded off-shore oil drilling, tens of billions of taxpayer dollars squandered on the "clean coal" hoax and the nuclear power boondoggle -- these are things that Obama has been promoting and enabling, and they are the very cornerstones of the "energy plan" that McCain and Palin campaigned on in 2008, and they are most definitely NOT why I voted for Obama.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 4, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Look, Obama's playing this all wrong. What he should have done is ordered in an aircraft carrier, then swooped in at the controls of an F-16.

After landing with a "Mission Accomplished" banner heroically flapping in the breeze he struts up to the microphones and cameras and declares "my fellow Americans: Major cleanup operations in the Gulf of Mexico have ended. In the Battle for the Gulf Coast, BP and our allies have prevailed."

That's how you project strength and certitude in a time of crisis!

Fuckin' A!

Big time.

Posted by: Winkandanod on May 4, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Mike Allen must have had serious pillow talk whispers with Ron Fournier to come up with that wizardy from their dual tent pole sheets...

Posted by: RF on May 4, 2010 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats complained loud and long about the Bush Administration's lackluster Hurricane Katrina response. Now they seek to prevent the Republicans from returning the favor.

Obama's been in charge for more than a year. He or his appointed subordinates had plenty of time to force BP (and Massey, for that matter) to clean up their act before disaster struck.

Posted by: mwl on May 4, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

The spill does indeed highlight Obama's incompetence, though not in the way that Politico's Republican talking-point tries to make. Actually, Thrush & Allen pass right by the real issue almost without noticing it:

In fact, conversations at the time of the spill on April 20 show that West Wing aides were worried about the rig tragedy from the moment it was reported. Even before the scope of the disaster was clear, these aides knew that it would undermine, if not reverse, Obamas support for increased offshore oil drilling.

Obama's incompetence is political more than managerial. It was, characteristically, his political ineptitude that got Obama into the position of endorsing the crazy GOP idea of opening up new areas to off-shore drilling. Rather than take on bad Republican ideas and make the GOP pay a political price for them, Obama will almost always give ground, concede most of an issue, and try to use his cravenness to fluff up his self-image as the most 'reasonable and moderate' voice in Washington.

Now the spill promises to make the public so hostile to off-shore drilling that Obama will have to reverse course to catch up with what the political center wants. Hard to pretend that your political instincts are uniquely in touch with all that is moderate and reasonable when you start flip-flopping on a basic issue like risking our shorelines for the sake of a little oil.

Posted by: smintheus on May 4, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

mwl on May 4, 2010 at 4:04 PM

Absolutely! Makes so much sense! The FillyBuster crazy senate would have allowed that sort of "force" without any push back whatsoever...

Crass and blatantly partisan comment Mikey

Posted by: RF on May 4, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just the oil leak. A few weeks ago a large meteor lit up the skies over the midwest, and some meteorites dropped to earth. Luckily, there were no injuries or property damage, but it could have been serious. And the Administration did NOTHING to prevent it.

If the Republicans were still in power, they would be able to blame this sort of thing on ACORN. But Obama is President, so it's his fault.

Posted by: Mitch on May 4, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Always nice to see "progressives" shooting wingers in a barrel. Good clean sport, what?

So, when can we open up offshore drilling again? Three months? Six months? I give it three months, since we've got the mid-terms coming up.

Posted by: lambert strether on May 4, 2010 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

I think Politico's just upset at the zingers Obama threw at them at the Correspondent's Dinner last week.

(I'm quoting from memory)
Politico Headline
Japanese Surrender: Where's the Bump?

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 4, 2010 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

That reminds me. Did WM ever post anything about the profile of Mike Allen in the NYT Sunday Magazine on April 25? Anyone? Any comments?

It was the cover piece, titled "The Insider's Insider", by Mark Leibovich. The author admitted he was a friend of Mike (which should have disqualified him from writing it) somewhere in the article, which made Mike out to be an enigmatic workaholic wave of the future super cool Washington journalist. With only wiffs of the odor of right wingism. Basically a puff piece, and seemingly way below what should be NYT standards.

By the way "emjayay" is my initials. Stands for Michael J. Allen. That's Michael, not Mike.

Posted by: emjayay on May 4, 2010 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

They really should stop reminding people how slowly Bush reacted to warnings about airplane hijacking and storm surges.
There were 5 days or more for the Gov to pre-act to Katrina and then to Rita.
The Feds made promises, like the levees are good to go, and promises of aide, men and supplies but they did not pre-act and were weeks in reacting.

There simply is not comparison that makes Obama look bad.

And every time Fox News and idiots like Boehner and Cantor say Katrina, they just remind us how horribly the government managed that disaster.

And every time they call something Obama's Katrina they devalue the insult. So keep it up Repubs.

Posted by: Marnie on May 4, 2010 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

Politico, and Mike Allen specifically, represent the very worst, most incestuous and clubby inside-the-Beltway nonsense that deserves to be taken about as seriously as Parade. Allen lives up to the stereotype of the pimply, nerdy kid who desperately -- oh, so very desperately -- wanted to be part of the cool crowd but mostly got slammed into lockers and stomach punched a lot. Decades from now his scribblings will probably be used as a prime example of the grotesque moral and intellectual rot currently at the heart of the Village.

Posted by: electrolite on May 4, 2010 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

I think what they just want to know is if Obama can spot an SUV full of explosives with his x-ray vision while flying over New York, why can't he dive to the bottom of the ocean and cap that oil gusher?

Posted by: Rip on May 5, 2010 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK



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