Obama's thuggery is useless in fighting spill
By: Michael Barone
Senior Political Analyst
June 20, 2010
President Barack Obama waves as he exits Air Force One
at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Friday. (Cliff Owen/AP)
Thuggery is unattractive. Ineffective thuggery even more so. Which may be one reason so many Americans have been reacting negatively to the response of Barack Obama and his administration to BP's Gulf oil spill.
Take Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's remark that he would keep his "boot on the neck" of BP, which brings to mind George Orwell's definition of totalitarianism as "a boot stamping on a human face -- forever." Except that Salazar's boot hasn't gotten much in the way of results yet.
Or consider Obama's undoubtedly carefully considered statement to Matt Lauer that he was consulting with experts "so I know whose ass to kick." Attacking others is a standard campaign tactic when you're in political trouble, and certainly BP, which appears to have taken unwise shortcuts in the Gulf, is an attractive target.
But you don't always win arguments that way. The Obama White House gleefully took on Dick Cheney on the issue of terrorist interrogations. It turned out that more Americans agreed with Cheney's stand, despite his low poll numbers, than Obama's.
Then there is Obama's decision to impose a six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf. This penalizes companies with better safety records than BP's and will result in many advanced drilling rigs being sent to offshore oil fields abroad.
The justification offered was an Interior Department report supposedly "peer reviewed" by "experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering." But it turned out the drafts the experts saw didn't include any recommendation for a moratorium. Eight of the cited experts have said they oppose the moratorium as more economically devastating than the oil spill and "counterproductive" to safety.
Obama doesn't. "If he sees any impropriety in politicians ordering executives about, upstaging the courts and threatening confiscation, he has not said so," write the editors of the Economist, who then suggest that markets see Obama as "an American version of Vladimir Putin." Except that Putin is an effective thug."