I read a Huffington Post editorial about Obama and the oil spill today imploring him to do something, anything, to be more a part of the cleanup process. It’s full of choice nuggets:
There’s not necessarily anything Obama can do that BP isn’t doing already. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other compelling steps he could announce
Obama should still try to seize the moment to rally public support
Granted, none of the experts interviewed by the Huffington Post were able to come up with satisfactory solutions to the basic problem that don’t involve time machines.
If none of the experts could come up with better solutions, why are they demanding Obama throw himself into the breech? Does he have special knowledge they lack? No, and the writer even admits as such. What they’re really calling on him to do is make noise. Appear relevant. Capture the moment to deliver speeches. Lecture the parties involved. Announce new laws. Have an opinion. Appear to be helping. Anything!
But none of this is actually leadership. Real, actual leadership is when you take control and ownership of a crisis and publicly steer it back to calmer waters — the one thing Obama can’t do since his administration has no competence in plugging oil wells! Merely making noise about the situation and inserting himself into the recovery process wouldn’t make him seem like a leader, it would smack of being an attention whore.
I’m reminded by an editorial written by Peggy Noonan five years ago that feels if anything even more relevant today then it was at the time:
I refer to the sheer scope, speed and urgency of the issues that go to a president’s desk, to the impossibility of bureaucracy, to the array of impeding and antagonistic forces (the 50-50 nation, the mass media, the senators owned by the groups), to the need to have a fully informed understanding of and stand on the most exotic issues, from Avian flu to the domestic realities of Zimbabwe.
The range, depth, and complexity of these problems, the crucial nature of each of them, the speed with which they bombard the Oval Office, and the psychic and practical impossibility of meeting and answering even the most urgent of them, is overwhelming. And that doesn’t even get us to Korea. And Russia. And China, and the Mideast. You say we don’t understand Africa? We don’t even understand Canada!
It’s beyond, “The president is overwhelmed.” The presidency is overwhelmed. The whole government is. And people sense when an institution is overwhelmed. Citizens know. If we had a major terrorist event tomorrow half the country–more than half–would not trust the federal government to do what it has to do, would not trust it to tell the truth, would not trust it, period.
Why do we demand so much from our president? He’s just a man. We become so bedazzled by stars, celebrities, and larger-than-life action heroes that I think we have a tendency to include the presidency with the aforementioned. As much as we would like it to happen, he’s not going to swoop in and save the day.