Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

No amount of 'emoting' from Obama will suffice

It needs to be said that the growing chorus of calls for Obama to show more "anger" or "emotion" about the gulf oil spill are pure B.S.: No matter how angry or emotional he becomes, he will always have fallen short.

It's an article of faith among Beltway pundits that the public wants Obama to show more emotion about this and other crises. For instance, David Brooks today states it as fact:

They demand that he hold press conferences, show leadership, announce that the buck stops here and do something. They want him to emote and perform the proper theatrical gestures so they can see their emotions enacted on the public stage.

The public wants Obama to put on empty theatrical gestures to make them feel better? No need to back this assertion up, of course. But put that aside for a sec. The real point is that this standard isn't designed to be met.

Take Joe Scaraborough, for instance. On MSNBC this morning, he called on Obama to spend the night the next time he visits the gulf. If he were to do this, of course, Scarborough would call on him to sleep in a tent on the gulf shore. And so on.

The point is that this is an entirely arbitrary yardstick with which to measure Obama's performance, and the bar will inevitably rise ever higher. Even those pundits who have suggested Obama has cleared the proper emotional threshold, such as David Broder, don't bother explaining how they reached this conclusion.

Mike Allen is onto the absurdity of this dynamic. Today he made the half-tongue-in-cheek suggestion that before long Obama would appear in the gulf on a boat.

Yes, appearances are important. Surely the public does look to the president for some kind of reassurance amid crises. But my bet is the public will judge Obama's performance almost exclusively based on the substance of his response: Whether he holds BP meaningfully accountable. Whether the administration does what it takes to exert real control over the response to the disaster. Whether Obama uses this crisis to push for a larger solution to the vast underlying problem that produced it.

It's harder to talk about these issues than it is to dash off a column comparing Obama to Spock. But it seems like the magnitude of this crisis demands an equally large response from our opinion makers.

By Greg Sargent  |  June 1, 2010; 11:06 AM ET
Categories:  Climate change , Political media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Morning Plum
Next: Anthony Weiner strongly defends Israeli attack on flotilla


The BP Gulf Spill ™

Make sure the press doesn't forget the above. This is their disaster. They caused it. They've failed to stop it. They worked with Cheney secretly to increase profits at the expense of the U.S.'s well being.

Now that Cheney's spokesperson is going to work for BP as a spokesperson, there can be no more wondering how closely related the two are.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 1, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

This is way OT but interesting none the less.

"Supreme Court Miranda Ruling: Suspects Must Explicitly Tell Police They Want To Remain Silent"

Activism at its best. Behold the result of years of politicizing the Supreme Court nominations.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 1, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Great post Greg, thanks. Pitch perfect.

Fact is, Barack Obama is a REAL LEADER.

His critics are NOT.

End of story.


Good international effort to see that someone on the DHS no-fly list was apprehended on a flight to Mexico (that was diverted to Canada). I wonder if the right-wing will congratulate Obama and DHS for this success???

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 1, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Greg, he could cry a river of tears directly into the Gulf and it wouldn't be enough. Now, if he uses this disaster to hold BP accountable for their gusher, enacts new restrictions and safety measures on off shore drilling, and moves us away from our huge reliance on fossil fuels he will have accomplished something.

Posted by: lmsinca | June 1, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Great post, Greg!

On Sunday's NYT you had Maureen Dowd calling for tears while Frank Rich had an opinion closer to yours.

I don't need theatrics, I prefer competence. But, then again, I don't live in the Gulf coast. Even the folks down there seem to have the same differences of opinion.

My thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Posted by: jmadlc55 | June 1, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

@Greg: "My bet is the public will judge Obama's performance almost exclusively based on the substance of his response."

You'd lose that bet. The "public" will judge Obama based on the pics of oil slicks and dead birds they see on TV, the "narrative" the media chooses to create, what the comics and rock stars and actresses have to say, and so on. Basically, on anything except the facts. Anyone watching 8 years of Bush II critics should know this...

Posted by: sbj3 | June 1, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

As one of the earlier critics, I think Obama did what was needed by way of expressing concern last week. He has apparently realized that BP lied to him like Goldman Sachs and the GOP and who all else lied to him.

Fine. Now what we need is a promise of legal action against BP and whoever else, and appropriate follow-up. He seems to be making that move sending Holder to the region.

My only current criticism is that had he realized the oil cos were lying about safety, they could have pre-positioned more supplies in the Gulf and then more when the spill happened. But with BP lying about its extent, that is hindsight speaking.

Posted by: Mimikatz | June 1, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Media fail.

When Bush failed to support NOLA after Katrina it wasn't about whether he visited and "showed emotion." This demand, made even on the left at the time, is exactly what's wrong with this kind of non-analysis.

It's the gutting of regulatory agencies such as FEMA and MMRS that should be the target of scrutiny and outrage. This is a POLICY matter. Leadership is best shown by good day-to-day policy decisions.

The media needs to look at the causes of this. It's really not that hard.

Posted by: BGinCHI | June 1, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

What, BG? Journalists do some actual journalism? Not even Greg's employers do that.

Posted by: azportsider | June 1, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Top Ten Things President Obama should do, to gain approval from the Media.

10. Move The White House To The Gulf Coast.

9. Adopt an oil coated Pelican.

8. Switch Presidential Limo to Mobil One, synthetic oil.

7. Organize and participate in a 5K Run, To Find The Cure For The Big Spill.

6. As A Token Of Bipartisanship, Run The 5K, Pushing Trig In His Stroller.

5. Erect A Fourteen Foot Fence Around The White House, To Protect His Family's Privacy.

4.Dandle Bobby Jindal On His Knee, And Tell Him That He Is Granting Him His Wish, By Letting The State Of Louisiana Handle The Problem.

3.Don A Flight Suit, Land On A Offshore Oil Platform, And Hang Up a; Emission Accomplished" Banner.

2.Launch A Truth Campaign by changing the name of the waters to; The Gulf Of Texico.

and the number one thing that President Obama should do, to show that he is on top of things;

Invade Grenada to protect it from a Cuban Oil Spill.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 1, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I agree I don't care if Obama shows emotion. I'm kind of emotionless, especially when I'm in a leadership position. It's much better to deal with a crisis logically and methodically than with your emotions.

HOWEVER, the only way any of us know anything about these issues and our president's response to them is through the media, so like it or not, it helps for a president to have a little acting ability. And we can scream as loud as we want about how unfair it is for the media to expect Obama to show emotion but there are millions of Americans out there who have been trained to expect it from their leaders ever since they were children. That's why we keep hearing "Clinton said I feel your pain, Bush had the bullhorn".

Obama is being compared to past presidents, like it or not. That's the game. I thought he understood it.

Posted by: SDJeff | June 1, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

#9 is my favorite Liam, although I was going to say he should set up a satellite office in New Orleans and stick around for the Hurricanes and eat lots of chicken, if there's any left over from Nevada, now that seafood is in short supply.

Posted by: lmsinca | June 1, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Attention Mr. Neten-Yahoo.

Get all your best assault teams armed to the teeth. They will soon have to face the ferocity of a Nobel Peace Prize winner. You might want to use torpedo strikes this time around.

"'Rachel Corrie' aims to reach Gaza


Tue, Jun 01, 2010

The MV Rachel Corrie is ploughing ahead with its attempt to deliver aid to Gaza despite yesterday’s attack by the Israeli navy on Gaza-bound ship the Mavi Marmara.

The cargo ship, which has five Irish nationals and five Malaysians aboard, is due to arrive in Gazan waters tomorrow, a spokeswoman for the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said.

The vessel became separated from the main aid flotilla after being delayed for 48 hours in Cyprus due to logistical reasons.

Nobel laureate Maireád Corrigan-Maguire, former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, film maker Fiona Thompson and husband and wife Derek and Jenny Graham are the Irish nationals on board.

Speaking from the ship today, Mr Graham said the vessel was carrying educational materials, construction materials, medical equipment and some toys. “Everything aboard has been inspected in Ireland,” he said. “We would hope to have safe passage through.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Pat Kenny , Ms Maguire said none of the aid ships carry arms and are "purely humanitarian". She said it was necessary for the vessel to complete its mission to assure the people of Gaza the world does care.

“Their port has been closed for over 40 years . . . 1.5 million people, it’s like the population of Northern Ireland, totally cut off from the world by this inhumane illegal siege of Gaza . . . their borders are closed . . . there is a shortage of medicines,” she said.

“Could you imagine if that happened to the 1.5 million people in Northern Ireland, the world would be absolutely crying out that this stop immediately.""

Posted by: Liam-still | June 1, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for that article about the MV Rachel Corrie, Liam. My heart goes out to the Palestinians.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | June 1, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"Top Ten Things President Obama should do, to gain approval from the Media."

No. 11. Become a Conservative Republican because the MSM loves them some GOP. How else to explain the prominence of dunces like Sarah Palin and evildoers like Liz Cheney?

Posted by: wbgonne | June 1, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Scarborough was offended that Barack went on his merry way to vacay in Chicago, after spending only 3 hours down there.

Which then added more grist for the mill because he blew off Arlington for some bush league military cemetery. An event which was appropriately rained out.

Play by the rules, Barack, even if they keep moving the goal posts.

Even Tom Brokaw said on MJ that "he's too cool by half."


Keep up the great work, Greg. You have a true gift--a built in BS detector.

Posted by: KathleenHusseininMaine | June 1, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I think that if President Obama were to do the following, it would win the media over;

He should address the people of the gulf coast, while showing a anguished look on his face, then bite his lower lip, and say: I Feel Your Stain.

Posted by: Liam-still | June 1, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

This thread is hilarious.

Poor Obama can't get a break from the hostile media, which loves them some conservative Republicans.

Absolutely bizarro world.

Obama shows emotion all the time -- it just isn't a pretty emotional picture. He is petulant, dismissive, scornful, self-pitying, self-absorbed, arrogant, and angry. Almost all the time.

What a short time ago it was that Democrats worshipped Bill Clinton, for biting his lip and pandering with phony emotion and "caring."

The greatest Democrat hero of all FDR, had no clue what he was doing but sounded reassuring on the radio.

The Democrats have become little more than an ongoing pity party.

But I'm still laughing about all the "media hates Obama" absurdity.

Posted by: quarterback1 | June 1, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

All, check out this defense of the Israeli attack from Anthony Weiner:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 1, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

FDR won four terms. Toon Town Lawyer thinks he knows better than the voters. What an Ultra Maroon!!!

Posted by: Liam-still | June 1, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Read some FDR history, moron.

He was all over the map in terms of substance. He often experimented erratically and had little in terms of coherent understanding, beyond broadly waging war on business and "wealth." He often contradicted his promises, and the depression went on and on under him.

But he sounded reassuring, and that's the main reason he was reelected. Not much controversy about that -- first class temperment, second rate intellect. His worshippers usually emphasis precisely that trait.

Posted by: quarterback1 | June 1, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I love your top 10 list Liam! We can surely come up with even more (well maybe you guys because you are much more creative than me).

Posted by: JoyP | June 1, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

FDR defeated Two Empires, from his wheel chair, in less than half the time, that Bush took to makes a dog's vomit out of his Iraq Quagmire.

Toon Town Lawyer is miles ahead in the contest for Biggest And Most Ignorant Imbecile of 2010!!

Posted by: Liam-still | June 1, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

the herd mentality and abject shallowness of our pundit class never fails to stun.
they are so Jr. High.
and how dare they decide what we want and demand. I hate it when politicians and pundits use that empty phrase : the people want....blah blah blah.
Especially coming from such a shallow and self obsessed group like the beltway pundits.
They hide behind the fake excuse of what they say we want so they can indulge in their neediness. they want and need Obama to be an overly emotional daddy and then hide behind the excuse that it's what we want

Posted by: vwcat | June 1, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Top Ten Things President Obama should do, to gain approval from the Media."

No. 11. Become a Conservative Republican because the MSM loves them some GOP. How else to explain the prominence of dunces like Sarah Palin and evildoers like Liz Cheney?

Posted by: wbgonne

I agree.
They trip over themselves whenever Caribou Barbie posts some inanity on Facebook and makes it Breaking news.
And they treat Darth Liz like she is a visiting dignitary rather then evil daddy's evil spawn.
yet, nothing obama does please the shallow twits of the Georgetown Cocktail circuit.
or any democrat for that matter, except for ex-dem and traitor Libermann

Posted by: vwcat | June 1, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Obama has been getting a pass from the so called "mainstream media" since day one. He's their number one poster boy. While Obama gives speeches, our Gulf Coast is being ruined by the minute. Oh, and by the way, where are the "environmentalists"? Is it ok for the environment to be ruined ONLY when a progressive is in office? WAKE UP AMERICA!

Posted by: barrysal | June 1, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

The Environmentalists are where they have been from the start, years and years ago; against ever having allowed any offshore drilling.

You and all your Palin ass kissing comrades, on the other hand, have always shouted: "Drill Baby Drill, Right here, and right Now".

Now you are suddenly an environmentalist. Like hell you are. What you are is a two faced fraud, who is trying to suddenly pass as a champion of environmental protection, just because you think you can score political points.

Where are all The Right Wingers, who should be apologizing for having pushed for all the offshore drilling that led up to this massive spill. Crickets!!!

Posted by: Liam-still | June 1, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"our Gulf Coast is being ruined by the minute"

Ruined by Big Oil and politicians like Bush, Cheney and Landrieu that they own hook, line and sinker.

Posted by: wbgonne | June 1, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I'll make a subsidiary point to Greg's very fine post above.

Brooks (and other perpetrators of this unreflective cliche) are guilty not merely of style over substance commentary, they can and ought to be loudly criticized for two other aspects of their silliness.

1) they are, knowingly or not, forwarding a now classic right-wing narrative of the liberal or the Dem as cold, unfeeling intellectual who is disconnected from real Americans and not really one of them.

2) but it is actually they themselves (speaking particularly of Brooks and Broder here) are actually saying the following:
"the American people, in their infantile need for a protector-figure at the helm, desire such an emotive show because they are too unsophisticated to expect or demand or even want actual effective governance THOUGH I MYSELF CERTAINLY AM SOPHISTICATED ENOUGH TO WANT THAT"

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The article is totally correct. Nothing the President does will suffice for these neverending attackers. Joe Scarborough, et al, live to criticize this president.It's what gets their hearts started in the morning and puts them to sleep at night. Hillary Clinton said it best when, in commenting on one of former UN ambassador Bolton's continuing verbal assaults on our President: "If Obama "walked on water" (they) would criticize him and say he only did it because he probably can't swim!

Posted by: saywha | June 1, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Someone please tell me when Democrats were ever satisfied with a Republican President and stopped attacking him.

If you can take a moment from the collective pity party.

Posted by: quarterback1 | June 1, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"Ruined by Big Oil and politicians like Bush, Cheney and Landrieu that they own hook, line and sinker."

They must own Obama, then, too, since he did nothing to stop it.

Posted by: quarterback1 | June 1, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Anderson Cooper jumped this shark last week as well.

The President should stay longer in LA. He should vacation in NO and encourage others to do so.

The President should sit on the front porch with Bubba and Earlene at the trailer park and stroke their hands while they all shed a tear for the sea turtles.


Posted by: allanbrauer | June 1, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company