Even though the BP oil spill has cast a dark cloud of terrible catastrophe over the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not without its silver lining. I’ve taken enormous delight giggling as I read the faux critiques of President Obama’s insipid reaction to the spill.
Dana Millbank, Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, David Broder are all on the same page: the president’s trademark intellectual, reasoned approach to this crisis cannot stand. Americans, especially those cracker-types who live way down yonder, are just too ignorant to appreciate a brainy law professor analyzing, synthesizing, and analogizing his way to solving a grave national crisis. The pundits agree that the president needs to dumb down, so he can meet the people at something approaching their lowly level.
But the critiques soon turn to hosannas when all four of them quote exactly the same passage from the president’s press conference. As Mr. Friedman said, better late than never the president transforms himself into everyman:
It took almost the entire press conference at the White House on Thursday for President Obama to find his voice in responding to the oil disaster in the gulf — and it is probably no accident that it seemed like the only unrehearsed moment. The president was trying to convey why he takes this problem so seriously, when he noted:
“When I woke this morning and I’m shaving and Malia knocks on my bathroom door and she peeks in her head and she says, ‘Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?’
Leaving aside my perception that the president’s comment sounded just like everything else he says—words robotically delivered by someone whose mind is elsewhere—it’s indeed a sad reality if our president takes things “so seriously” only when one of his kids asks him a question. Almost as sad as the rhetorical Kama Sutra-positions Mr. Friedman et al assume when claiming that mentioning Malia makes the president look “empathetic.” In order to show empathy, you must also have respect for the individuals with whom you are forging an emotional bond.
Earlier in the press conference, though, President Obama showed just how paltry is his respect for the fishermen, shrimpers and oil workers whose livelihoods have been threatened when he said:
But, look, we’ve gone through a difficult year and a half. This is just one more bit of difficulty. And this is going to be hard not just right now, it’s going to be hard for months to come. … The Gulf is going to be affected in a bad way. And so my job right now is just to make sure that everybody in the Gulf understands this is what I wake up to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about.
Translation: “You-all havin’ a hard time? Well, times are tough all over. I’ll sleep on it.” Respectful. Empathetic.
Given the successful exploitation of his younger daughter in last week’s press conference, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if on his next visit to the Gulf of Mexico the president brings along Bo, who is after all a Portuguese water dog. Imagine the brave companion animal paddling through murky tides valiantly rescuing all manner of despoiled water fowl as his master stands barefoot in the sand looking earnestly out to sea.
WC Fields is credited with some great lines about children and animals: Never work with them. Any man who hates kids and dogs can’t be all bad. Do you suppose if Fields were around today he’d also say “Never trust a president who uses his daughter as a prop to give you an even break.”