Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A very good explanation

I do not apologize to Americans for being stunned by the crassness of President Obama's comparison of the oil spill to 9/11. So far as I can make out most Americans were stunned by the crassness and lack of political savvy there. And as Obama is using the whole debacle for a bit of Britain-bashing (which seems to be considerably less popular in the States than he thinks) we do have some say in the matter.

His statement reminded me of the time Bill Clinton complained plaintively that 9/11 had not happened on his watch. The fact that his policies made that even possible seemed to have escaped his memory.

John Podhoretz gives an excellent analysis of President Obama's extraordinary statement.
President Obama doesn't like the fact that the Gulf oil spill reminds people of Hurricane Katrina, since the public response to that catastrophe hastened the decline of his predecessor's standing. He'd prefer that the American people be reminded of something else -- something that rallied people around their president.

And so he told Politico over the weekend that the oil spill has "echoes of 9/11."
Americans thought differently about "our vulnerabilities" after the events of 9/11, Obama said, and the oil spill is "going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come."

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the most bizarre things ever said by any president.
After explaining that the only thing the two events have in common is nothing, Mr Podhoretz adds:
Of course the fact that 9/11 would prove to be a net political benefit for George W. Bush was not the result of happenstance. It was due to the way he responded.

After a few days of discomfiting uncertainty, Bush found his voice and his purpose, delivering a series of powerful speeches that suggested a seriousness of purpose in regard to his presidential responsibilities that no one had actually expected of him.

Whatever happened afterward to shake that perspective on him in the minds of so many, the fact was that Bush had to meet the moment to secure the political advantage.
Obama's problem is that he is trying to make BP into a villain whose actions deliberately created the situation and he is doing it in order to bolster his own position. But despite the few nasty attacks fuelled by the President's rhetoric, it is obvious to all that this was an appalling accident and BP is trying to do everything it can to deal with the damage (often hindered by political decisions or lack of them).

So far, his political credibility has only suffered. As Glenn Reynolds shows, even his adulators in the media were unimpressed by yesterday's speech in which he once again attacked British Petroleum. Has nobody told him yet how much of it is owned by American shareholders and what an economic disaster the destruction of BP might be?

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