Obama’s Waterloo?

The BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico may signal the end of trust in the President Obama, just as Hurricane Katrina damaged President Bush’s standing. Considering all the aspects of the oil disaster, it is difficult to see how the administration could have acted otherwise. But we the people expect more. Although the public’s general view of the government comes with a large dose of cynicism, when we find ourselves in a situation like the BP oil disaster or Katrina, we expect some superhuman solution to the crisis.

The truth of the matter is that there are some crises that are so great that they are beyond the ability of the government to deal with immediately and in a totally effective way.

The 9/11 attack was a major crisis that fell within the range of our ability to act, and the government did react swiftly and effectively identified the source of and responsibility for the attack. Until we were diverted into the irrelevant Iraq war, there were only small missteps that could be criticized.

In the case of Katrina, it is true that Bush made some goofs, but overall it was clear that the extent of the crisis was well beyond the country’s ability to deal with it immediately and effectively. When the waters retreated, most of the blame fell unfairly on the shoulders of Bush, and he and his administration will forever be marked by the failures of Katrina.

Will we see that same with Obama and the BP oil disaster? Obama’s main misstep has been not to be seen to be angry with BP. As the disaster develops more and more into a major catastrophe, I think it is quite likely that we will tar Obama with it as part of his legacy.