Secular Right | Reality & Reason



Obama’s Katrina, the Right’s Shamelessness

No matter what President Obama says tonight in his speech on the oil spill, we can be sure that right-wing pundits will blast it for being the wrong thing at the wrong time—even though from the moment the spill occurred, those same pundits criticized him for not saying, doing, or emoting enough.  Deep Horizon was Obama’s Katrina, they joyfully proclaimed.    To now complain that Obama is over-reacting to the spill by demonizing BP and imposing a moratorium on deep-water drilling is the height of hypocrisy.  What did Obama’s critics expect him to do under relentless pressure from the right?  If the conservative punditocracy really believes that we need to preserve our prerogatives to drill and not over regulate the oil business, they should have applauded the administration’s initial low-key response, not jump at the opportunity to paint Obama as insufficiently engaged.



  • Caledonian · June 16, 2010 at 12:16 am

    So-called conservatives are as much in favor of “Big Government” intrusiveness and top-down control as their counterparts on the Left – as long as they (or their proxies) are in charge, the more power, influence, and responsibility the government is given, the better.

  • Apathy Curve · June 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I agree, Heather. I’ve been saying this from the beginning of the incident. I detest Obama and what he represents, but nothing he did in this situation would satisfy the rabid dogs on conservative talk radio.

    More and more, we’re seeing legitimate anti-leftism perverted into ultra-conservative demagoguery. I’m also noticing a disturbing trend of the religious right attempting to hijack the resurgent conservative movement, and that worries me as much as Obama’s leftism. I don’t want to trade a commune of burned-out hippies for a congregation of Jesus freaks.

  • Susan · June 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    The left-wing pundits didn’t seem to care much for the speech either.

  • Cephus · June 16, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Sorry, *NOBODY* liked the speech, even MSNBC and Keith Olbermann were bashing it.

  • A-Bax · June 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    What about the Rove criticism of the administration that it dithered while oil washed ashore? Jindal requested authorization for barrier berms in early/mid May, and BO has only given the green light to 2% or so.

    LA and FL are basically making an end-run around BO and the Feds because they are flat-footed. States are taking matters into their own hands because the Federal response had been so poor.

    Also, many conservative worry about “regulatory capture”, which seems to have occurred with BP and the Administration’s lax oversight (BP was exempted from various environmental review in 09, under Obama). BO over-the-top denunciations of the culpable private-sector entity is a smokescreen whereby he hides how deeply in bed his administration was with BP. (E.g., BO is largest single recipient of BP political donations, BP was one of the original co-authors of cap-&-tax, and the Feds exempt BP from various regulations).

    Also, Let’s not confuse “low-key” with “low-action”. Legitimate criticism of the latter should not be dismissed because of purportedly hypocritical criticism of the former.

    Obama has been both tone-deaf AND incompetent. (Incompetent in that the Feds have utterly failed to co-ordinate the inter-agency response. Nobody really knows who’s calling the day-to-day shots.)

    Will the GOP dump on Obama no matter what he does/says? Of course….politics ain’t bean-bag. Does that mean that criticism X or Y is thus unwarranted? Certainly not

  • Susan · June 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Well, George Stephanopoulos apparently found the speech rather Rooseveltian, or so he told Diane Sawyer. Everyone else’s reactions, left to right, seem to be ranging from “blah” to “stank on ice”.

  • Black Death · June 16, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Some thoughts on all this….

    1. We need the oil. As we enter into the era of Peak Oil, drilling in more and more exotic locations will be required. Virtually no easily recoverable oil is currently being discovered

    2. Bad stuff happens, but we don’t make radical changes because it does. Airplanes sometimes crash, but we don’t stop flying because of it – we implement a no-fault program to improve aviation safety.

    3. Maybe BP could have done a better job, maybe not. It’s certainly worth exploring. But BP doesn’t want its wells to leak any more than Exxon wants its tankers to go aground or the airlines want their planes to crash.

    4. The Left had a field day with the poor federal response to Katrina (under Bush II), even though the state response under Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco and the local response under Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin were at least as bad. So there’s a real sense of payback and leveling the playing field here. Blaming Obama for the oil spill mess is as fair (or unfair) as blaming Bush II for Katrina. Maybe, at least in some cosmic sense, this isn’t right, but nevertheless, it’s how the game is played nowadays. The Left laid down the ground rules with the Bush II-Katrina thing, and now it’s turned around to bite them in the ass. Too bad. Harry Truman said that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    5. If there’s a takehome lesson, it’s probably that sclerotic governmental bureaucracies don’t respond very well to emergencies. The ability to think quickly and make difficult decisions under enormous pressure are not generally included in bureaucrats’ job descriptions.

  • Alice · June 16, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    I agree that it is silly to blame Obama for the oil spill or for a poor federal response. For any other president, it would make sense to blame them for the incompetence of their subordinates. But for Obama it makes no sense.

    Everyone knew from the beginning that Obama was a man who gave great speeches and inspired the crowds, but who really had no leadership experience, skills, or competence. It is simply foolish to expect competent leadership in a disaster from such a man. The Republicans are clearly being hypocritical to pretend that they ever expected a competent response from this White House.

    But one cannot help but ask a simple question: Why so protective of this president, Heather? It goes beyond the desire for fair play into heartfelt devotion territory — as if you were Obama’s mother. What is it about this incompetent clown that brings out the protective reflex in you?

  • Polichinello · June 16, 2010 at 8:53 pm


    In fairness to Heather, I think she’s more interested in policing hypocrisy amongst her fellow conservatives than protecting Obama. She has something of a point. Sean Hannity was beside himself just a few days after the initial disaster, screaming about this incident being Obama’s Katrina. Even his conservative guests were visibly embarrassed.

    However, Obama’s incompetence has made a prophet of the buffoon. This is where Heather rather misses the point by committing the fallacy of the excluded middle. Favoring a low-regulation regime does not mean one believes the feds have no role whatsoever. They certainly never argued that during Katrina, where there were, in fact, legal bars to Bush’s getting involved at a federal level.

    With the leak, fifty miles offshore, there is a clear federal responsibility, and this is especially so in a crisis. Obama’s job was to cut through regulatory barriers, such as the Jones Act, which impeded the Dutch siphon ships or the berm construction projects. Obama has been, at best, utterly inept, if not downright malignantly negligent.

  • Snippet · June 17, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Frankly, most of the criticism early on from a certain type of conservative pundit was nothing more than gotcha-ism, schadenfreude, and maybe a chance to say, “It’s not as easy as it looks, now is it?”

    Take that away, and there’s not a lot of substantive criticism to be made, besides the self-conscious phony tough-guy bluster about making BP plug the leak right this minute OR ELSE blah blah blah.

    I think the early relative inactivity was more I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-to-do-here than it was any sort of newfound respect for the limitations of what government can and should do.

  • John · June 17, 2010 at 2:43 am

    It would have been OK if Obama had been low key for the first few days, but once it became clear that this was a major crisis, he really did need to do something. The speech he gave was a month too late (and, of course, he spent the last part of it advocating liberal policies).

    And I totally agree that this as Karma for what the press did to Bush with Katrina. The Katrina disaster was primarily the responsibility of the local and state governments, but they were completely dysfunctional. Since this oil spill is in deep waters, it is a Federal responsibility. Besides, instead of drilling a mile down, we could be drilling in ANWAR, shallower waters off the west coast, or building lots more nuclear plants, but the Democrats blocked it off. Now the reaper has come home.

    PS: I loved the statement of the BP exec: “I care about the small people.”

  • Mercer · June 17, 2010 at 3:33 am

    I think people who compare this to Katrina are dreaming. Hurricanes are not rare events so there was little excuse for not being prepared and sending help the day after the city flooded. When has the US coast been coated from an underwater oil well that failed fifty miles out to sea? The main reason I think it will not equal Katrina is because Obama hasn’t been seen on camera saying the people in charge are doing ” a heck of a job”.

    The right should save it’s fire for things like Obama trying to undermine Arizona’s immigration laws.

  • OneSTDV · June 17, 2010 at 7:24 am

  • JT · June 17, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    There is another factor as well. If Obama had come in strong right at the beginning, the very same people criticizing him for not doing enough would have been howling about Obama’s “tyranny.” Then when the federal government had spent the last two months trying the very same technical procedures that have failed for BP, those same voices would be proclaiming that it just goes to show that government can’t do anything right, but if it had all been left in the hands of private industry it would have worked perfectly, etc.

  • Narr · June 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    What I want to know is–and Heather’s comment is only the latest instance of something I see all over–when did criticism from one end of the political spectrum of the other end’s leaders become “pressure”?

    If I write my congressslug and tell him he’s a worthless buffoon, is that “pressure”? If I CC the local birdcage-liner, is that “pressure”?

    It’s sad to see such a perceptive writer as Heather use such a thoughtless formula.

  • cynthia curran · June 19, 2010 at 6:06 am

    Well, Obama has spent almost two years blaming Bush. So, he gets the taste of his own medicene. And Obama is a facists, he likes the goverment to have a partnership with corporations. Why do people hear defend the Demogogue that took money from BP but is forcing BP to set up a fund for 20 billion. So right wing radio and tv have just as much as a right to go after Obama as the left-wing blogs did Bush.



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