Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Gulf Coast residents are supposedly mad at President Obama for not keeping the oil from threatening their beaches and marshes. We hear this in stereo -- from political opposition on the right and liberal pundits bored by the president's cerebral approach to problem-solving.
Stopping the waves is a job for Neptune, not a president. Obama cannot raise his trident and force the oil back into the hole. There are things he can do, but they're a lot less impressive.
Granted, Obama's early campaign for president cultivated a myth of his godlike powers. And some still seem to buy into the magic narrative.
Columnist Maureen Dowd writes that "Barack Obama is a guy who is accustomed to having stuff go right for him." Sunday talk show panelists repeated this idea, followed by "and now look what's happening to him": A vast oil spill brings disaster in the gulf. Israel complicates Mideast diplomacy by killing would-be blockade breakers. The new job numbers are lousy.
With all due respect to colleagues, these things aren't happening to Obama. They are happening to the world. Obama's vaunted "good luck" was in campaign politics, a far smaller and more manageable stage than he's playing on today. There has never been a time in world history when stuff wasn't happening.
No, his stimulus didn't end the scourge of high unemployment. That is a long-term and structural challenge, made tougher by the recent recession. No one is going to cheer a 9.7 percent jobless rate, even if it was a tad below April's. But one can argue that it might have gone a lot higher without the stimulus.
Obama's critics can rationally blame him for announcing plans to expand offshore drilling -- especially before cleaning up the sex-addled Minerals Management Service, which is supposed to regulate the industry. But they can't ask, as some on the right have, why Obama hasn't managed to stop the crisis a mile underwater. Or, as the left asks, why the administration put faith in BP's early reports about the blowout. The answer to both questions is that BP is there, a mile below the surface, and the U.S. government is not.
The proper government response? Do what is humanly possible to keep the oil from shore, as BP fixes the well. The administration is doing that. It has also reversed plans on expanding offshore drilling, pending an investigation of what went wrong.
But on the left, Atlantic writer Joshua Green criticizes Obama for "his abiding faith in the judgment of experts." Columnist Frank Rich agrees:
Whether the subject is the oil spill or the troubled campaign in Afghanistan or even divining future unemployment rates, Obama has erred by relying on experts. Solving these problems "may be beyond the reach of marathon brainstorming by brainiacs," Rich writes, "even if the energy secretary is a Nobel laureate."
Fine. That the best and the brightest can get it wrong is not quite news. But if not experts, whom should Obama listen to? Should he check the horoscope, or take his troubles down to Madame Ruth? If the experts aren't performing as desired, he can find different experts.
For my taxpayer dollar, I'd prefer a calm leader who works with the most respectable opinions he can find. Some of the worst Obama decisions -- going passive during the health care ruckus and pushing for new offshore drilling -- came not from listening to science, economic and military experts, but his political advisers.
In dealing with "stuff," Obama does not make the grade as a god. But as an intelligent human being playing a tough hand of cards, he's not been that bad.
COPYRIGHT 2010 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentary.
See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop .
V iews expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.