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Monday Morning Quarterback, Oil Spill Edition

I'm going to riff off this post over at Ace of Spades a bit on something I was thinking about anyway while driving home from the office today. Perhaps in response to a couple of queries Gibbsie had to parry at a press briefing, Obama has now tacked to incoherent rage in response to the Horizon event - proclaiming "I Want To Know Whose Ass To Kick." Ace hypothesizes that Obama's problem is not communication (as is claimed by left-leaning folks in their tepid criticisms of Obama) but in his actions in response to the leaking crude.

I'm going to have to disagree with that notion to an extent because Obama's biggest problem dealing with the oil leak has been an utterly dunderheaded communications strategy. Underlying that, though, are a couple of realities that will almost surely make Obamaphile heads explode when articulated.

Now I'm not an expert on offshore drilling and my public relations experience is limited to the daily one-on-one and small group dynamics of a corporate recruiter. But there are some aspects of salesmanship I've internalized that translate well into general PR/crisis response situations.

Much like President Bush in the aftermath of Katrina, there is very little Obama could have done to significantly change the situation as it stands today. Let's get that out of the way up front.

Obamaphile head exploding reality the first - Obama is such an incredible narcissist he refuses to be perceived as powerless or anything but supremely intelligent. This led to a couple of PR blunders right off the bat. The declaration that "we're in control". Okay then, you own the crisis. What should we do now? Plug the damn hole? Brilliant, why didn't BP think of that? Wait around until we can decide whose ass gets kicked? How does that help mitigate the damage?

I'm not convinced of it, but Obama may indeed be of above average intelligence. We can argue that another time but it's obvious he does not think well "on his feet" as the saying goes. I'm sure that's why he scheduled his first presser in almost a year during the day when nobody was watching rather than during primetime. The only difference I can see between Obama and Biden is that Biden is secure enough in his own skin to not care what people think while Obama has spent so much of his life crafting a cool, contemplative persona he fears ridicule over any other outcome.

Obama needed to make clear from the outset there is little the government can do stop the spill itself and the vastness of the Gulf coast makes oil-soiled birds and beaches inevitable. Working a mile deep in the ocean is extremely difficult and we should expect the worst case scenario. If he had set realistic expectations - i.e. under promised - he could have avoided the blowback he's now doomed to experience. But that's not his style. So now he's stuck picking at tar balls on the beach like some puzzled child and trying to deflect blame through manufactured outrage.

Obamaphile head exploding reality the second - Barack is not a decider. He'd never been in a leadership role prior to 1/20/2009 and it shows. His actions during the campaign made that clear enough. What did Obama do when the financial crisis hit? Sit on his hands, wait until a consensus position arose, adopt that consensus position, and snipe at Bush. That's fine for a congress-critter and the campaign trail but a recipe for failure as a leader.

This dovetails a bit with the point above. He'd rather be perceived as contemplative (i.e. indecisive) than have to accept responsibility for a bad decision. Unfortunately there are times when a bad decision is better than no decision. In the case of Horizon, Obama stalled, let the situation get ahead of him, and was forced to be reactive rather than proactive. All he can do now is feign anger as his administration belatedly rushes to adopt desperate solutions that might have helped if implemented when proposed weeks ago.

Jindal wanted 1,000,000 feet of booms and he wanted to build sand berms. Why didn't he get it? There's no way in hell you're going to seal off Louisiana's 400 miles of coastline, but you damn well better make sure the effort fails after you've given it your best shot. Instead we've got ourselves a top-quality talking point for 2012. Not fair, you say? There's nothing Obama could have done? True that, but the same is true of Bush and Katrina. Perception is reality, and the reality today is that Obama isn't doing everything he should.

Which is again a communications problem directly resulting from realities the first and the second above. Obama's generally a prick, he refuses to humble himself, and he's unwilling to accept blame. So we went from "I'm in charge" to "Plug the damn hole" to "Did you plug the hole yet, daddy" to "It's not my fault" to "Now I'm really mad." The only clubs left in his bag are funneling billions of taxpayer dollars to his union cronies under the guise of cleaning-up/stimulating the Gulf coast and blaming Bush.

Or maybe there's no viable communications strategy for a disaster of this magnitude. Up to now he's made hash of it and I doubt vindictive Obama is going to sway public opinion. As much as it sucks to find out you're screwed, it's sucks worse when you're left to find out for yourself. Well now we know. And Obama will pay a heavy price for failing to clearly define that reality up front.


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Comments (19)

First off, you need a LEADE... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

First off, you need a LEADER. And President Dimwit has NEVER been a leader. In anything.
Given his first briefing, he should have come clean - and as you point out, put the resources of the government at the disposal of those who would be hardest hit.

But THE ONE also knew HIS team dropped the ball in allowing BP to skirt federal law. So from Day 1, it was DAMAGE CONTROL that he had foremost in his mind. Protecting not the coast, by HIS OWN ASS!

See what I mean? Straight ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:
I am perfectly willing to b... (Below threshold)
Andrew X:

I am perfectly willing to believe that Obama is "above average" in intelligence, certainly in an academic/intellectual sense, but I have become utterly fascinated by the paradox that I see over and over, particularily in academia... namely that, the more "intelligence" one seems to possess.... the less wisdom.

And thus we see that the janitor that sweeps the floor after the professor's lecture may possess more common sense and wisdom in his little finger than has come out of the professors mouth all year.

Fine, Obama is "smart". Whoop de doo. So's that Milhouse on the fourth grade playground that was never smart enough to keep from getting the tar beaten out of him, and never smart enough to know how to deal with the bullies. (Gee, sounding familiar?)

Obama is a rotten politician, who does not have a clue how to win over people who don't start out all goo-goo eyed at him, how to demonstrate executive leadership, and how to think beyond himself.

And this latest "kick some ass" gibberish is just fingenails on a blackboard. "Oooo, what leadership, NOW I can be all impressed....!". Yes! Some decisive action against people..... AGAIN, his own countrymen and US allies. Always. Never an "other". Ever. But to quote Elaine Benes - "Yeah, we are ALL real impressed!"

Jackass.

As far as I can see: THe d... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

As far as I can see: THe difference in intelligence and wisdom - the person who is really smart can often feel that he is so smart that he MUST have it all figured out. THat he is smart, so he must be an expert in all things. That once he's come to a conclusion, he's so used to being 'right' that he feels no need to examine his belief. Growing up he has been smart enough to often bs his way through defending even wrong beliefs. . as long as all he was defending them in was an arena where results didn't matter; in theory, not in practice. But when they get in the real world, they can't adjust their theories to meet reality: They can't bring themselves to.

http://charliedaniels.com/soapbox-2010/soapbox-2010-0531.htm

THis too.

ripping off Walt Kelly and ... (Below threshold)
tomg51:

ripping off Walt Kelly and Pogo:

I have met the ass, and he is me.

The only oil spill Obama ca... (Below threshold)
retired military:

The only oil spill Obama can handle is the one from his Presidential limo.

I second #5 by tomg51.... (Below threshold)

I second #5 by tomg51.

...um, assuming by "me" tom... (Below threshold)

...um, assuming by "me" tomg51 means "Obama."

It's been pretty clear for ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

It's been pretty clear for a while that Obama's indecisive. And that's a BAD thing in a President.

But then again - in his history when has he EVER had to be the responsible party for anything? He quit as a community organizer. He 'managed' the Annenburg Challenge - which spent several hundred million to 'improve' things in the Chicago school system. There was no improvement.

As a state Senator... well, Google up 'Grove Parc' and his involvement therein. As a US Senator? He didn't do anything but run for President - and his record wasn't even touched on.

We have, as a President, someone who doesn't have as much experience managing people and problems as your standard Mcdonald's assistant manager. His crisis management skills seem to be predicated on waiting for someone else to solve the problem and then taking credit for it. After all, who would dare say he is NOT responsible?

He has, as has been pointed out, a very calculatedly crafted image. That image is in danger if he ever blows a decision. ALL he's got is his image - he's very protective of it, very invested in making sure that image is intact for the long haul.

So his every instinct at this point is likely screaming at him to NOT do anything which would reflect badly on him. Words are perishable - and can be spun like fucking tops to portray him as a potent, decisive leader... until a decision is made that HE is responsible for. And THAT is something he has a very hard time doing.

Because it's not about the country. It's about him. His 'legacy'. His ego. HE is important - the rest of us? The country? The world?

They don't matter - it's all about HIM.

President PRESENT thinks le... (Below threshold)
retired military:

President PRESENT thinks leadership is giving a speech about doing something.

Plug the damn hole, I comma... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Plug the damn hole, I command it.

Ever see a slow-motion car ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Ever see a slow-motion car wreck? That's what we're seeing in this administration.

Barry's 'Focus Group' has found that his leftest buddies what 'some emotion'. What we get is the above sound bite. Judging from the comments in this mornings rag, his extreme left support group is not happy with THE ONE. Look for more sound bites in the coming days.

Send the clowns to do a job... (Below threshold)
just bob:

Send the clowns to do a job and you get.....juggled balls.

Maybe the fact that Rahm ha... (Below threshold)

Maybe the fact that Rahm had cozied up to a flak from BP, living rent free for all those years, colored his advice to the Indecider-in-Chief?

No Barry, you cannot escape... (Below threshold)
914:

No Barry, you cannot escape your tar baby in the gulf. Its your lot in life.

President PRESENT thinks... (Below threshold)
Tim:

President PRESENT thinks leadership is giving a speech about doing something.


'Bout time we changed that moniker to President ABSENT.

"Daddy, why didn't you send... (Below threshold)
914:

"Daddy, why didn't you send a flotilla to save flipper?"

Soros: "Emote."Obama... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

Soros: "Emote."
Obama: "Yessir."

"Daddy, Why dont you send h... (Below threshold)
914:

"Daddy, Why dont you send helen to kill the Kraken? Daddy please?"




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