The offshore oil fiasco could not have come at a worse time for Obama. His approval numbers aren’t great, but they’re not bad, and he could easily have coasted into the Fall election season on health care and financial reform legislative victories, framing the fall elections to a certain point as a referendum by the nation on the Congressional fate of the climate change bill. But, alas, he’s stuck in the crossfire of the BP disaster. And when I say crossfire, I mean crossfire.
I suspect that the atmosphere at the White House is the worst it’s ever been. Imagine the people yelling at each other about what to do on this- he had teams working on opening offshore drilling again. He had big plans for working with the oil industry on moving forward with one of the three pillars of his vision for the future of American energy independence. This was in his State of the Union speech, afterall. And now, it has got to be the least attractive issue to have on your palette of anything happening in the country right now. The only thing worse would be if he came out in defense of Facebook’s old privacy rules…
I think it’s because Obama doesn’t have a clear side to be on. So far, his persona and Hope & Change message have counted on a David and Goliath type framing of every situation, only this time he is stuck because he was going to be on the Goliath side. This situation doesn’t fit his narrative. To wit:
- His campaign pit him as a Washington outsider, someone who was (and is) dramatically different from George Bush and John McCain. It was an easy distinction, and he energized the youth and several other core groups around the fact that he was so different and no one had ever seen a president like him before. He was right, and I’m glad he’s president. But this time, he’s just like Bush was, and just like Sarah Palin for that matter- he believes that offshore drilling is a valuable part of our domestic energy plan. If you believe that, it’s hard to demonize BP, hard to curse them in public, and hard to use this incident as something that shifts the country away from offshore drilling. He doesn’t want to shift us away.
- The health care reform bill is a classic and traditional democratic cause. For me, it put Obama in the same camp as FDR in that he fought long and hard for the “common person.” He can’t do the same kind of fight here for the people of the Gulf, because if he fights hard against the offshore drilling system, he won’t have that as one of the three pillars from his State of the Union speech for our American energy future.
Bottom Line: Fighting BP doesn’t fit Obama’s narrative. He won’t do it. He may talk big, and he just announced a 6 month moratorium on offshore drilling. What’s six months from today? November 27. Safely after the elections, when everyone will have forgotten about this and he can pick up where he left off.
Photo Credit: Mr. Wright