28 May 2010

Obama's Katrina

Next to Ross Douthat, Peggy Noonan is the best columnist in America. She takes the Obama administration's detachment to task, making the obvious comparison to Katrina, and views the administration's tepid response to the crisis in the Gulf in the larger context of the conservative belief system: When you ask the government to do too many things, it will do none of them well.

What I appreciate about Noonan is that she is authentically, quintessentially American -- she criticizes Obama while not rooting against him. She has no trouble pointing out, as many conservatives seemingly forget, that it is a disaster, in and of itself, to have an American president so publicly weakened by a crisis.

Remember how Bush infamously was heard saying, "Heckuva job, Brownie" to his FEMA chief? It's difficult to see Obama's attendance at a fundraiser for California Sen. Barbara Boxer a week ago, as anything but a reprise of that laughably contemptible detachment. Additionally, Obama's EPA chief somehow found time to attend a fundraiser of his own in New York. The president has made exactly one trip down to the Gulf.

As Noonan points out, Katrina crystallized everything that was wrong with the Bush administration in the public's eyes -- the budget surplus blown to hell, the mismanagement of two wars, the missing WMDs, the perceived incompetence in governing, the skyrocketing debt. The oil spill aggregates the same about Obama's team -- the detachment, the secrecy, the health care debacle, the spending, the blatant, utter hypocrisy in too many areas to count. I don't doubt the president is deeply concerned about the oil spill. But his nonchalant, aloof response is inviting an enormous backlash. He must convince Americans he is passionate about something other than spending their money or lecturing them.

As if the biggest 15-month slide in the 70-year history of public opinion polling wasn't bad enough, the oil spill casts even more of a pall on his increasingly unlikely prospects for re-election.

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