Lots and lots of back seat drivers are popping up these day. It's understandable really, but true to form it usually doesn't help and it's so annoying. When it is your loved one that needs medical assistance, the ambulance carrying the paramedics can't get there fast enough. When it is your friend who has fallen 60 feet off a ledge in the mountains, the rescue personnel appear to be moving in slow motion. Everything takes too long. When it's your coastline that is facing an ever encroaching oil slick, whether or not you've advocated for less government or smaller government, you want immediate action. I get it. Suddenly it's not someone else far away that is impacted, it's your loved one, your friend, your coastline, your neighbors, your state, and your constituents.
Faced with a ongoing environmental disaster that no one knows how to decisively solve, and the feelings of impotence and helplessness that the situation engenders, frustration is inevitable. So too are the finger pointing that surely follows any event that no one really wants to take responsibility for.
Still, I am pleased that the president used the interview with Matt Lauer to answer his critics and push back against the idea that the administration has not been fully engaged in efforts to stop the oil gushing into the gulf.
I did not see the entire interview, but heard the president remind Lauer that the effort is not "theater," and his efforts were meant to solve the problem rather than run around failing his arms stoking the already present outrage (that has resulted in threats toward BP's CEO and his family). I'll take substance over style any day.
Obama has always been criticized for his demeanor, both by his critics (who can't stand the fact that he doesn't always "rise to the bait" and seems aloof and diffident to them) and his supporters (for much the same reason—lacking the fire and brimstone fervor that would make them feel like "something was happening"). I, for one, appreciate the fact that he remains who he is, and doesn't try to be a chameleon—changing for each audience, to "fit in." He works hard, like Clinton did, and is assembling the best and brightest minds to bear on the gulf crisis. Very few of the people who are criticizing the president have a clue what to do in light of this crisis. This is made abundantly clear by some of the solutions proposed to handle the situation, including nuclear devices (freaking nitwits).
Notice too, how everyone deflects responsibility away from themselves. While some people may acknowledge that we as a society are addicted to oil, very few will entertain any change whatsoever to their lifestyle to try and lessen that addiction—this includes extremely simple and painless measures like checking car tire pressure and turning off lights and air conditioning when not being used. It was gas prices, not environmental concerns which forced a very few people to give up their Hummers, Tahoes, and Excursions (no longer manufactured).
We have designed cities and suburbia to require automobile driving while at the same time we have been reluctant to fund mass transit in many places and even derisive about those who use it. To be sure, this disaster happened on Barack Obama's watch, but it can hardly be blamed on him. People tried to warn both the government and the public of the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill and the all too cozy relationship between the two oil men running the previous administration and the petroleum industry. The mantra then was "deregulation, deregulation, and more deregulation." The die was cast. As more and more information trickles out about the failures at BP and other oil companies, the results of that mantra combined with an ineffectual (by design) EPA and Interior Departments are becoming clearer.
Critics are everywhere, but this administration has asked for help and both the public and research institutions and universities and responded. I'm just grateful that Barack Obama is in the White House rather than John McCain (who would be 100% theater—running in different directions at the same time) and Sarah Palin (who would likely be hiding in an undisclosed location, bound and gagged so she couldn't speak to the press). Talk about a disaster.
In the meantime, I say let the president, be the president. Support him in his efforts to deal with the gulf oil spill and the people most affected by this disaster, if you can. If you can't, direct your fire to the source of your ire. The president didn't cause this event, but he seems to be one of the few who will take responsibility and stand with the people most affected by this environmental nightmare.