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Sunday Roundup

* Obama: We're in charge, and we're angry. Now that BP's latest efforts to plug the damn hole have failed, Obama issues a new statement on the crisis essentially taking ownership of the new way forward.

Obama says the Coast Guard has "directed" BP to try the new technique, whereby "the riser pipe will be cut and a containment structure fitted over the leak."

Also: Obama says the out-of-control spill is "as enraging as it is heartbreaking."

* With Obama under fire for not going to Arlington, Steve Benen weighs in with an important post laying out all the ways that perfectly routine things under previous presidents have been branded as odd and disconcerting under Obama.

The subtext here is that Obama's foes on the right are engaged in a concerted effort to paint Obama's presidency as strange and unsettling, as an effort to transform our society and economy into something unrecognizably American. Ugly stuff.

* Colin Powell tells ABC News today that we need to counter the spill with "decisive force" and a "comprehensive total attack," though he stops short of calling for the use of nukes.

In all seriousness, the criticism from Powell, an inside-the-Beltway icon, may signal that the political classes will begin directing new, higher levels of blame and recrimination at the administration in the coming weeks, as the spill appears more and more out of control.

As Mike Allen puts it this morning, the chattering classes are being to ask whether "the response size and structure need to be fundamentally re-thought." Look for more of this.

* And this doesn't seem all that helpful: Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen tells CNN today that the oil industry is in charge: "It really is not ours to lead right now, because of the technical challenges."

* But Brad Johnson explains that, yes, Obama does have the authority to shove BP aside.

* Big picture: Frank Rich says the spill could drown Obama's efforts to restore the legitimacy of government.

* Zzzzzzzzz...Is there anything that will get editors to gently inform marquee columnists that the Obama-as-Spock meme is a tired, predictable, useless cliche that we've already read a thousand times, and insist they come up with something original instead?

* By contrast, David Broder seems to suggest that Obama has in fact cleared whatever emotional threshold he was supposed to clear.

* Will revelations about GOP Senate candidate Mark Kirk of Illinois get embellishing his military record get the same amount of attention that the Richard Blumenthal flap did?

Obviously it's not a perfect parallel -- Kirk really does have a service record to be justifiably proud of -- but the Blumenthal flap got sustained national media scrutiny for days.

* And it's just amazing that media orgs are lavishing coverage on the ridiculous Sarah Palin-versus-Joe McGinniss flap, given that both sides, each for his or her own ends, are transparently milking this for all the publicity it's worth.

What else is happening?

By Greg Sargent  |  May 30, 2010; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , Climate change , Political media , Senate Dems , Senate Republicans  
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Next: Memorial Day Open Thread


Greg: Why do you think the Right has been so quiet re: the Gulf Oil Disaster?

Posted by: wbgonne | May 30, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"Will revelations about GOP Senate candidate Mark Kirk of Illinois get embellishing his military record get the same amount of attention that the Richard Blumenthal flap did?"

It sure should. He not only "embellished" his service record, he claimed awards not received. Good lord.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | May 30, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

The problem isn't and never has been about whether or not we can move BP out. The problem is the federal government isn't equipped to solve the problem. All of these sideline pundits making up crap like usingq aircraft carriers might as well be saying "let's use some spaceships" while they are at it. Like I said last week, Rachel Maddow laid out the options that is to say option as in only one viable pathway forward and that is relief wells which can't be drilled until august. Period. Nobody likes it but it is what it is. Wanna drill baby drill? Well then u have to be prepared for major losses in a spill baby spill. Mullen was just speaking the truth whether anybody wants to hear it or not

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla | May 30, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Have a good holiday, everyone. I'm gone for awhile, probably till tomorrow.

Greg, thanks for all you do. Please take tomorrow off. :o)

Posted by: suekzoo1 | May 30, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

GOP strategists are still saying we don't know all the facts yet and Sestak should come clean, even after Sestak stood in front of a group of reporters and exhausted them of questions regarding the matter.

At this point Dems need to push back hard and call this what it was from the start, a partisan witch hunt being used to distract from the fact they are void of ideas on how to clean up the mess their ideologies have unleashed on this country in the last decade.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | May 30, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

"decisive force" and a "comprehensive total attack"? Sounds like Powell thinks Sadaam has risen from the grave, and invaded the Gulf of Mexico, to control all its precious oil.

Powell's prescription is idiotic. Use decisive force on that leak, and it'll simply become 4 times larger.

And if there had been a comprehensive total attack available, it would have been drawn up and implemented by now. But there isn't, because of one simple fact: the battlefield is a mile below sea level. Military submarines today have a collapse depth of about 2,400 feet. Small unmanned submersibles is all we got.

Posted by: andrewlong | May 30, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

If we could post live links here I would post that Maddow clip because while its disheartening and heartbreaking I think every pundit, politician, and citizen should watch it so they know what is going on. All of this hyperbole about the oil spill is just that and you notice not one person, not one out of all of the geniuses we have both in this country and in countries friendly to us abroad, has gone on TV or went to a newspaper and said "Hey we can do X and its DEFINITELY going to stop the oil spill". Cuz there is no X. And hearing folks say the govt should be doing "more" in the most generic of terms is getting increasingly frustrating.

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla | May 30, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I hope no one is seriously contemplating a nuclear detonation of some sort on the gusher. Simmons has been making lots of noise lately about a leak several miles away and pushing this nuclear meme. All you need to know about Simmons is #1 that he is NOT a nuclear scientist and #2 that he has worked for and in the oil industry, which may not necessarily be a dis-qualifier but should at the very least give us pause.

Here's a non-technical take on his proposition and for a more detailed and scientific evaluation go to the tech guys and gals at It's a really bad idea and I think that while BP tries a few remaining experimental options which no one really has much hope in, the rest of us need to focus on staying ahead of the clean up and figuring out a way forward that includes less risky adventures.

In all likelihood we're stuck with an oil gusher who's reservoir has only been depleted by between 1% and 2% for the next several months.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 30, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

@wbgonne: "Greg: Why do you think the Right has been so quiet re: the Gulf Oil Disaster?"

I know this question wasn't directed at me, but I'll respond anyway.

The right has not been "quiet." They've been anything but quiet. The entire meme of "Obama's Katrina" originated on the right, among the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, Fox News, etc.

And the left has adopted and advanced the meme. So, the right has been quite effective in advancing the primary criticism against the Obama administration.

This actually relates to the Benen post. The right advances its (often nonsensical) claims, because they know that the media and the left often internalizes and advances the claims it asserts.

The media covered the flag pin "controversy." The media covered the "birther" stuff. The media covered the "infamous" bows. The media asks if Obama's an "apologist." The media (and left) are asking if this is "Obama's Katrina." The media covered the teleprompters (and some on the left have also attacked it). The media keeps playing footsie with the right's assertion that the Sestak situation* is a "scandal." And on and on...

The right simply throws this stuff out, and sees what sticks (i.e., gets put into the ether about Obama). And, frankly, much of it does, because the media uncritically covers it, and/or the left internalizes and advances it.

It's an interesting dynamic, because it doesn't flow in the opposite direction. Claims from the left against those on the right are routinely dismissed, and almost never internalized and advanced by the right.

The left says that it's just holding its leaders accountable. Maybe. Certainly, accountability is important. But, why is the left so willing to accept the worst about its own?

Posted by: associate20 | May 30, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Nice post associate20. Personally, some of the most despicable people for me are hypocrites and liars. I tend to feel compelled to call out hypocrisy whenever I see it, left or right, if that makes any sense. I am being much more careful now however because the difference between having a Republican controlled vs. Democratically controlled government are more stark than ever. I try not to over vent my disappointment (I should take the time to find a better word), because of the alternative.

Posted by: lmsinca | May 30, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Glenn Smith has a nice post which I find relevant considering what is going on in the Gulf and that it's also Memorial Day tomorrow. Have a nice Holiday everyone.

"Recently, Glenn Beck attacked Simon Greer of the Jewish Fund for Justice for writing in the Washington Post that “to put God first is to put humankind first, and to put humankind first is to put the common good first.” Talk of the common good, Beck said, leads to death camps.

Beck said:

Once you get into the common good, it’s over. And this is the perversion that every minister, pastor, priest, bishop — every single person in America, every rabbi should be at the pulpit saying the same thing — get away from anyone who talks about the common good. Because the common good — if you put that first, and you reject individual — you are headed for the death camps.

Beck, of course, is criminally insane (death camps?!!), but here he’s speaking about something authoritarians of the ages have long believed: love and solidarity among the oppressed is a dangerous thing indeed. It is part of the dark genius of the American Right (and its darling, Ayn Rand) to disguise its authoritarianism in the deification of the individual and the demonizing of the community. Only the master can be loved.

Individual vs. Community. It is and always has been a phony conceit. You can’t have a community without individuals. You can’t have an individual without a community. It is only in a healthy community that individuals can flourish. Sure, there’s always a tension between individual freedom and the laws and social mores of a community. But there never existed such a thing as a collection of individuals completely detached — physically, spiritually, politically, materially – from one another."

Posted by: lmsinca | May 30, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) - website used to claim service as a "Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran."

was there a huge outcry about that?

Posted by: jeeze56 | May 30, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

As Greg and Frank Rich put it:

"Big picture: Frank Rich says the spill could drown Obama's efforts to restore the legitimacy of government."

Yes. And here's Benen on George Will playing the game (with a twist on THIS particular government's competence in question)...

"'SERVES HIM RIGHT'.... Conservative columnist George Will said this morning that President Obama is "being unfairly blamed" for the response to the BP oil spill disaster. But, Will added, he's glad the president is receiving the unfair criticism anyway.

As the columnist sees it, the president said the government could solve problems. And since it hasn't yet solved this problem, the disaster "just strikes at the narrative of competence."

I continue to be mystified by this. Blaming the president is unfair, Will conceded, because the president is doing all he can under impossible circumstances. But blaming the president is worthwhile, Will added in the next breath, because we now know government officials can't quickly shut down a gushing oil leak a mile below sea level.

If we were to take Will's point to the next step -- the federal government lacks the wherewithal to fix every problem, so some tasks should be left in the hands of private enterprise and the states -- I suppose the lesson is we should have BP and Louisiana state agencies solve the problem.

That ought to work, right?

At this point, the discourse seems to boil down to a) those who want to see the president don a wetsuit and head to the Gulf floor; b) those who want to see the president don a cape and fly around the planet really quickly in order to reverse time; and c) those who want to see the president pound on podiums and lose his cool, as if that would make a difference."

As Steve points out, this is incoherent as an argument. This administration also may well not be able to divert a large asteroid heading our way. Therefore a government, the previous one for example, who promised they would defend the country would be blame-worthy if they don't get that diversion job done?

At bottom, there's a conception here shared by modern conservatism, Will included, that government cannot be effective or efficient except in a police/military function domestic or international. In all else, government ought to restrict its operations to emasculating itself thus ensuring it will not prevent the private sector's inherent genius to resolve any problems that arise.

The real world is not relevant to this theoretical framework.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

In a nutshell...

The modern Republican Party, in its quest for gaining the levers of power so as to govern the country, advances a theoretical position that no one can nor should govern. There are two fundamental axioms in this theoretical position which are held to be self-evident truths.

1) Government can only act as a drag on superior and more beneficial societal forces. Therefore government cannot 'work'. It is impossible.

2) All other notions about government are either delusion or deceitful. Therefore no one other than Republicans can be allowed to gain or hold power as a matter of logic and as a matter of societal good.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Beck and Will haven't managed anything more complicated than a keyboard and their stock portfolio. One hides his crazy by being "intellectual and the other by being "aggrieved

Keep bringing the crazy, boys.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | May 30, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

@chuck - Well, I think in one sense, Will is certainly a smart fellow. But his ideological framework makes him considerably stupider (on a fairly regular basis). And it doesn't help that he's perhaps the most arrogant individual in the world of DC punditry (his most notable accomplishment).

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

"SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A group of conservative attorneys say they are on a mission from God to unseat four California judges in a rare challenge that is turning a traditionally snooze-button election into what both sides call a battle for the integrity of U.S. courts."

How can one possibly be a fair-minded judge if you don't start off hating homosexuals and non-believers? Justice blind-folded is justice that can't see God.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Hurricanes and oil spills...

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse


You are right (as usual). I guess my frustration gets the better of me at times.

How far to an idealogical extreme can someone be before the *fact* of their taking up residence there almost by definition undermines their "intellectualism"?

I don't like to wave the "homespun, down-to-earth, common sense" flag as some kind of substitute for rigorous analysis but its seems like extremism tends to dull other facilities.


Posted by: ChuckinDenton | May 30, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

WHY Nice People DON'T VOTE.

In my precinct work over the last 30 years, I discovered that it wasn't that people didn't vote because they were apathetic -- no, they were afraid they'd *'fail the citizen test.'* They didn't want to seem or feel stupid. They didn't want to confront what they *didn't* know. When I suggested that they vote only on what they knew and cared about (not necessarily every Water Assessor), they would say, "I can *do* that?!"

It's not just the underinformed who struggle with all the daggone propositions. All of us do. Skip the ones you don't understand. (I also go to the Democratic Party website.)

"To begin with, be sure you vote in every single election. If you're not sure about every seat or issue, vote for/against those you do understand well." Words for the hustings.

Posted by: wendyf | May 30, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

@wendyf - I think you've put your finger on a commonplace in voter behavior. And your advice looks wise to me.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

@chuck - I agree. "Common sense" very often means some assumption which hasn't been scrutinized, eg something heavier than air obviously can't fly.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

The right man for the job. Waxman on the spill...

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Typically wonderful read from Kinsey on the Tea Party thingey...

"The Tea Party movement has been compared (by David Brooks of The New York Times, among others) to the student protest movement of the 1960s. Even though one came from the left and the other from the right, both are/were, or at least styled themselves as, a mass challenge to an oppressive establishment. That’s a similarity, to be sure. But the differences seem more illuminating.

First, the 1960s (shorthand for all of the political and social developments we associate with that period) were by, for, and about young people. The Tea Party movement is by, for, and about middle-aged and old people (undoubtedly including more than a few who were part of the earlier movement too). If young people discover a cause and become a bit overwrought or monomaniacal, that’s easily forgiven as part of the charm of youth. When adults of middle age and older throw tantrums and hold their breath until they turn blue, it’s less charming...."

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Lulu: "I hope no one is seriously contemplating a nuclear detonation..."

I've heard that one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.

Posted by: jzap | May 30, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

@jzap - That's old-fashioned nuke-think. It lacks adjectivization.

The new nukes are "surgical". Big difference.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Addendum to a digby post...

"BTW: You can see the ambition rolling off of Cheney in waves. She's going to run at some point, I have no doubt. And she makes Palin look like a frisky little kitten by comparison. She is the most dangerous woman in America."

Accurate assessment. She's sits at the apex of Republican/corporate/meda power and she's being carefully marketed as an authority and bona fide conservative leader. She is very smart, no question. And she is without, apparently, any sense of integrity towards the truth. She lies with the practiced ease of the worst sort of political figure.

Posted by: bernielatham | May 30, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

It's nice to see Colin Powell arguing for a robust, muscular central government. Not sure what his shadowy corporate overlords will think of this when they realize that in fact that is what will come of all this carping about Obama not getting the boot hard enough on BP's neck.

We've had 30 disastrous years of deregulation and starvation of government. And we're surprised that it can't respond to a globe-changing crisis fast enough?

Posted by: RalfW | May 31, 2010 12:53 AM | Report abuse

For those of you who weren’t around last year and missed my Dad’s story and in honor of Memorial Day, I’d like to share a page of my father’s diary. He was a B17 bombardier in WWII and flew 36 missions over Germany. I found his 3” X 5” spiral notebook written in pencil about a week after he passed away. It was in a manila envelope with my name on the front and was filled with his diary, medals, news clippings and several pieces of flak. He was 19 years old in 1944 when he wrote this.

“30 November
What a mission, WHAT A MISSION! We went to Museburg & their 395 guns on a visual run. What made it worse is that we missed the target. I wouldn’t mind if we even came close but they must have gotten lost. Anyway we dropped about ten miles from the target. I wish I could explain what happened but I can’t. I need a map & everything else. The final result was that we missed the target & flew through about four times as much flak as necessary.

Witcher, our waist gunner, got hit with a piece of flak. Didn’t cut his skin but went through his clothes & gave him a pretty good bruise. Al had a pretty good scare when a hunk came through the nose. Had a little excitement in landing. The right tire was flat & we went off the runway. Nothing serious just a little out of the ordinary. The thing that scared me was when the bomb bay door’s motor burned out over the channel. It really raised a stink in all of the airplane. What made it worse was that we were over the channel. I wasn’t dressed for swimming.

Well, I guess that’s it. The worst Mission we have been on. I think the Air Force lost 56 bombers.

Not Good………….”

Posted by: lmsinca | May 31, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

All, Memorial Day roundup posted:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 31, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Seriously. The plum line? A similar to cross between red and blue OR were you missing the day a lead weight at the end of a string which is used as a straight line reference in masonry and brick laying was defined as a PLUMB line?

Posted by: therev1 | May 31, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Re: Bernie at 3:17,

I marvel that anyone takes this guy seriously, or that he expects anyone to.

Either his ignorance of conservatism or his dishonesty is surpassing.

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 31, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Re the Benen piece (wow, is he a hack), the Obama left's growing penchant for whining victimology is increasingly amusing, from a party that is always criticizing whining.

But, on the substance of it, isn't there yet another major contradiction between this kind of victimology and Obama's entire raison d'etre as Presidential candidate?

He campaigned as the "and now for something completely different" candiate. He would be transcendant and transformative.

He repeatedly said his goal was to transform the country, which one might reasonably think would involve transforming the Presidency.

But his political/media apparatus is constantly attacking any suggestion that he is doing just that. Benen -- and Plumline -- are right on script.

Posted by: quarterback1 | May 31, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

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