Monday, June 07, 2010

POLITICS - Obama and the Oil Crisis

"Shields and Brooks: Should Obama Be Comforter-in-Chief in Oil Crisis?" PBS Newshour Transcript (with video) 6/4/2010


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, great to have you back with us this Friday.

So, they have capped the well in the Gulf. But the oil is still coming out. The president, Mark, was back down there today, second trip in a week. Do you see a change in the White House approach?

MARK SHIELDS: Certainly. I mean, I think today's repeat visit by the president was an indication that he had received loud and clear the criticism he had gotten from both Democrats and Republicans that he wasn't as visible.

His presence wasn't as visible as it had to be. And now we're seeing the narrative of the whole story, Judy, move from the well and the gushing a mile below the surface to the havoc, whether it's people's lives threatened and livelihoods threatened, beaches, birds, fish, as we saw in Ray's piece.

I mean, it was just -- the oil is now just a reality. And regardless of when we stop it, even though it hasn't been stopped, that's the story.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David, does this make it look like the president is more in control of what's going on?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, he's still -- the oil is still gushing. There is the still the bad ambience. The oil is still coming out and nobody knows what to do with it.

And I think people rationally know there is nothing the president can personally do about something. But, still, the ambience is bad, and they want to see some reaction. I personally don't hold him responsible for any of this.

Somebody had a good line that we elected a guy who was cool in a crisis, and now we are upset because he is cool is a crisis. And, so, I personally don't hold him responsible. But people want to have a sense that he's more emotionally engaged. I thought today was a good step, just in theatrical terms, not the best step.

I still want to see him surrounded by fisherman, by regular folks down there. And he still hasn't done that. But, in the White House, though, they have done something quite intelligent, which is to create a separate team that is just going to do this, because one of the things that is a challenge for people in these circumstances is to pay serious attention to this, but not get consumed by it.

Jimmy Carter was consumed by the Iran hostage crisis. The Clinton people, with some of the scandals, they couldn't get anything else done. And I think they have done the right thing, which is get some serious people involved, but still have most people going about the regular job of the presidency, which is the right way to handle it internally.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Mark, you said last week that you thought the president needed to show more feeling. I don't remember the word that you used, but you said he needs to...

JUDY WOODRUFF: And I was going to say, today -- or yesterday, I guess -- he told -- in an interview, he said on CNN that he doesn't think he should do that.

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think part of the job description of a president is not simply commander in chief. It's comforter in chief. And that -- it really is.

Ronald Reagan did after the Challenger crisis, really bound up the nation at a terrible time. And President Clinton going out and welcoming back the caskets from the embassy assassinations and murders, I mean, those are important acts for a president. And I really think that that's part of the job description.

It's not -- he doesn't have to emote. He doesn't have to pretend to be what he isn't. But I think there is a sense of communicating that, at the highest levels of power and authority in this country, there is an understanding of the human factor in this. I mean, and David mentioned the fishermen in particular.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In addition to blasting BP, which is what he was doing again today, saying they are spending a lot of money on advertising, but they need to spend money on the people here.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. Yes. And I think that is moderately effective. I'm not sure.

But -- but people want to know that the communication with the government is two-way. And that doesn't mean you just sit with a series of government officials in your shirtsleeves around a table. It means you are in a non-governmental setting, where most people are, at a restaurant, maybe out on a boat with people.

And I think, so far, theatrically, they haven't done that. But, again, I should stress, that's theatrics. And it's important, but it's not the most important thing. I think, on the substance of the matter, they're doing reasonably well. They're being -- people are angry for a lot -- still the cry, do something, do something. But what are they supposed to do? I think they are doing, substantively, what they can.

Take special note of the comment by David Brooks, "And I think people rationally know there is nothing the president can personally do about something."

This is the truth, but expect the Obama-haters to continue to blame him for the oil spill, like they do for everything bad happening today regardless of the actual cause.

No comments: