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What Obama has to do at today's press conference

President Obama must do four things at his press conference later today. He must show that "plug the damn hole" frustration publicly. He should try his best to prove that the purpose of the 1,200 National Guard troops to be deployed in the Southwest is more than just to get cranky Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to pipe down. He needs to clear the air over Rep. Joe Sestak's assertion that the White House offered him a job in the administration in exchange for staying out of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania. And he needs to exercise rhetorical presidential muscle to tamp down the uprising among service section chiefs over "don't ask, don't tell."

That was a clever bit of theater by the White House to leak Obama's behind-the-scenes cussing. Surely it helped to demonstrate that he is as frustrated as the American people over the inability to stop the torrent of black gold belching under the Gulf of Mexico since that BP oil rig exploded and sank on April 20. But the president must do more. He has to show that anger to the press. And then he has to detail all of the things he and his administration have done over the past month. I'm talking federal money and staff hours spent trying to contain this unprecedented catastrophe.

Obama is headed to the gulf for the second time tomorrow. I want to hear definitively how he is holding BP financially and legally accountable for this disaster. He must lay out the goals and timeline of the special commission he formed last week to investigate what happened. And he has to convince the American people that the lax leadership at the Mineral Management Service is over. A good way to demonstrate this is by announcing that the agency's invisible chief, S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, has been shown the door.

Now, from "plug the damn hole" to "fix the dang fence."

Obama has been met with skepticism from all sides over the plan to send 1,200 National Guards troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. Unsatisfied, McCain has introduced an amendment seeking 6,000 guardsmen. The president must explain clearly why he thinks his approach is better than McCain's -- and why other efforts by Arizona, though wildly popular, are no substitute for real immigration reform from the federal government. Problem is, this discussion cannot be divorced from the midterm elections. Obama needs to protect Democrats. McCain needs to protect his seat.

Meanwhile, questions abound over what was said to Sestak in an effort to stop him from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) in the Democratic primary. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs might have been able to get away with telling the media "I'm not going to get into it," but Obama cannot. Gibbs and a White House senior adviser have assured us that nothing inappropriate took place. The only way for that assurance to stick is for the president to give a complete accounting of what happened -- especially since Sestak keeps yapping about it while leaving key details to our fertile imaginations.

The folks who really need to be told to stand down are the military section chiefs who are now urging Congress to reject the compromise on "don't ask, don't tell." Their argument is similar to one espoused by Defense Secretary Gates. They want the Pentagon working group's survey to be completed before Congress lifts the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military. The compromise that has been worked out is suitable solution, and Congress must approve it. The nation can no longer afford to spend millions of dollars to train soldiers only to kick them out because of who they are, especially in the middle of two wars.

More important, ending "don't ask, don't tell" is a priority of the commander in chief. The policy change has been endorsed by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gates, who has said repeatedly that it is not a matter of if but when gays will be allowed to serve openly in the military. Obama must tell section chiefs resistant to change to fall in line tomorrow. That's what leaders do.

By Jonathan Capehart  | May 27, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Next: Obama fires the head of the Minerals Management Service


It would be refreshing if Mr. Obama would say anything that would not smell like a political ploy.

Posted by: CharlestonTenor | May 27, 2010 7:02 AM | Report abuse

What happened helping first before blaming, punishing, threatening, and regulating?

How many coast guard / navy ships are helping with the containment? What is the army corps of engineers suggesting as alternative strategies?

Or is the administration really so powerless and short sighted that all it can do is flog the company that certainly already knows it has a major PR and liability disaster to deal with, but should really focus only on plugging the leak at this point.

Posted by: TonesNotes | May 27, 2010 7:21 AM | Report abuse

I think it's time for the President to use the strategy of selecting his harshest critics on any given issue to help solve the problems they are criticizing him for.
Heck, put them in charge of say the BP spill effort and let them work it out with the full backing of the White House and Congress.
Senator Corker comes to mind or even Senator Cornyn.
The President of this country has a bad enough job to wrestle with and he certainly does not need snipers picking him off at every turn.
President Bush should have used the same strategy. He got a bad rap too.

Posted by: paulmalone_54 | May 27, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

What is a "military section chief?" Do you mean the Service Chiefs? The Combatant Commanders? I know of none of the current Service Chiefs or Combatant Commanders who have publicly disagreed with either the President or SECDEF. If so, name names and don't hide behind the indefinite "they." Oh, and by the way, just because changing the law is a top Presidential priority doesn't mean responsible government seniors don't have an input. The President should want to solicit his subordinates' input on issues, consider them carefully, and then decide. This is what real leaders really do.

Posted by: rkmjrm1 | May 27, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Obama will do what he always does, speak very eloquently and say virtually nothing. Too bad so many Americans will fall for it.

Posted by: thebink | May 27, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

The only reason he's so damned frustrated at the "hole" is because it's infringing on his furthering his socialist agenda.

Posted by: mcsquared65 | May 27, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

The only reason he's so damned frustrated at the "hole" is because it's infringing on his furthering his socialist agenda.

Posted by: mcsquared65 | May 27, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Capehart, you seem to have missed one:

He must take personal accountability for a complete failure to lead during the greatest environmental disater this country has faced. He would also be wise to explain why campaigning for a senator in California somehow rises in priority above a national emergency.

Posted by: donchew1 | May 27, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

to all,

the MESS in the Gulf of Mexico and along the border are classic cases of: BHO is ALL mouth & NO brain.= as usual, he's done nothing but TALK, TALK & TALK.

further, his sending of the few NG troops to the border is called: doing nothing POSITIVE to fix the problem & HOPING that the voting public doesn't notice that you're INCOMPETENT, a SELF-important, sanctamonious FOOL & a WEAKLING.

if anyone had any doubt about why he & every other DIMocRAT must be DEFEATED and NEVER trusted to be "in charge" again, his lack of REAL action is 2 good reasons.

SEEING/HEARING BHO makes me nauseated.

yours, TN46

Posted by: texasnative46 | May 27, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Our Muslim President will do what he ALWAYS does. He'll look like MUSSOLINI, as he LOOKS DOWN, and TALKS DOWN, to everyone in the room.
Then, staring past the assembled Useful Idiots, he'll LIE THROUGH HIS TEETH, Blame EVERYONE but himself, and answer every YES or NO question, with a 10 Minute Rambling Incoherent 'Answer', making it IMPOSSIBLE to ask more than 5 Questions.

Posted by: GoomyGommy | May 27, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I recently heard of a man who was formally reprimanded by his employer for not showing visible signs of worry and stress toward a particular project at work. I remember when performance at work was evaluated in terms of how well you met your own goals and the goals of the company. Employers formerly valued a “cool head” and the ability to “get the job done” so it’s presently difficult to understand how and why things like frustration and anger have become desirable traits.

What’s an employee to do? Well it depends on the answer to the question: “Who is his real boss?” An employee whose values and activities are dictated by the man/woman at the end of the hall “has it easy”: he simply needs to occasionally slam his fists on the board room table, act one way in private but a different way in public, and demand that all of his colleagues suppress their personal opinions and feelings.

Capehart's standards for evaluating the performance of the President of the United States are interesting. Even more interesting is the fact that the president is apparently trying hard to conform to these standards. Capehart makes reference to a recent incident wherein the Obama lost his composure and snapped at one of his aides. Apparently, however, this behavior is what we Americans "need" to see. We need to see visible signs of worry, stress, and frustration regarding a serious problem with far-reaching consequences. Capehart praises Obama’s “behind-the-scenes cussing” because it shows that he’s frustrated (frustration being an admirable trait) but goes on to say frustration isn’t enough. Apparently we need to see anger. Only after these controlled expressions of uncontrolled emotion should he detail the real work that has (or hasn’t) been done.

Posted by: notsosure | May 27, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

At this Press Conference, more than any other (obviously too few) of his Presidency, Mr. Obama cannot demean, defer or dismiss anyone, any agency or any action -- taken or not taken, in his response to questions. The American people will be watching and listening. If it's politics as usual and more of the same, they will know it, and the President will be out of a job in two years. This is no time for spin. It is time for truth, accountability, and most importantly, leadership from this President.

Posted by: mpwynn | May 27, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

It is the
not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is
not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is
not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is
not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is
not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is
not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the
salutes the Flag,

It is
who serves
under the Flag,


The Commander in Chief will not be attending services at Arlington this Memorial Day. He is otherwise engaged.

Posted by: LETFREEDOMRING2 | May 27, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Since McCain's humbling presidential defeat, he became a frustrated, vindictive, and vicious senator. John McCain now carries a personal vendetta against anybody that he feels was responsible for his landslide defeat. Here in Arizona, McCain became a joke. Most people totally disregard anything that he says. John McCain really doesn't stand for anything right now, he'll lie and flip flop on all the issues. Then blame others claiming to be "misled". McCain is now the type of senator that gives Washington a bad name. The name of McCain's game is "revenge"!

Posted by: budsan1 | May 27, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse


Are you fretting over Preznit Odinga's plummeting poll numbers? Sounds like it to me...

Posted by: sladenyv1 | May 27, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

What he must do?
What he has to say?

Sez Who? Don't be so silly.

PS, the Washington Post used to have clout to suggest, even demand. Those times are LONG GONE. Even the, especially the zionists.

Posted by: whistling | May 27, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

What Obama says is not iportant and very few believe anythig he says anymore. What he does is important. Right now he is really doing nothing. Nothig at all.

He isnt even granting permission to build barrier islands to keep the oil off of the sensitive areas.

He wants a crisis so the barrier islands would help to reduce the environmental impact of the spill... and give him less crisis to act.

Posted by: markandbeth92 | May 27, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Goomey Goomey, dear,

Who can think of anyone who could HELP but talk downto you?

That you have no sense at all sings through your every word. For example, what does the
oil spill have to do with Muslims? Your one note stuff isn't even disgusting any more. Just sad.

Posted by: whistling | May 27, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Don't expect much from The Obama's first press conference in nearly a year.

He will give long, rambling, "nuanced" answers to every question thus severely limiting the quantity of questions.

No concrete opinions or decisions, nothing to see, move along.

Posted by: spamsux1 | May 27, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Really, it would help your credibility on DADT if you knew the Service Chiefs were called Service Chiefs, rather than "section chiefs."

You might also note that McCain is the one eliciting letters from the Service Chiefs on DADT.

Posted by: dfmadden | May 27, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

cranky John McCain?
Look you ignorant fool. Illegal immigration is a serious problem here in Tucson and Arizona. This is a small step in the right direction. Now, if those Nat'l guardsman could do their jobs without bureaucrats and media lapdogs breathing down their necks, we might stem this problem.

What I want is for my president to stop blaming everyone else, stop name calling, and just start acting presidential. I don't agree with everything you say or do, but don't call me names, like the petulant adolescent you act like, and sneer down at me from your podium.

Posted by: Eric95TT | May 27, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Can someone please put him on during reruns? Or don't put him on TV at all. He just goes on and on without saying anything definitive.

Posted by: hsbdobergirl | May 27, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

I hadn't known about the Joe Sestak thing. But it's more than plausible.

Similar White House meddling in our upcoming New York Senate primary left us with a gun-toting homophobe appointed by a complete fool as our candidate, rather than any of the well-regarded long-term Congresswomen who had wanted to run against her.

I don't in the slightest regret having voted for Obama over McCain, but I find myself having less and less respect for the President and his Administration.

Posted by: Itzajob | May 27, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate your lay down of potential questions, but the dalibama is not going to provide any are a foolish Lad if you thought otherwise

Posted by: djudge1 | May 27, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

What an embarassment. This president is totally inept!! This press conference is a joke. He is a stammering fool!

Posted by: james8102 | May 27, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

He will be forever known as the telepromter President. I watch and see him look down at the promter. Why doesn't his speech team do answers in 15 words or less? He is just droning on....

Posted by: hsbdobergirl | May 27, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

why does the media give obama advice rather than hold him accountable? were they giving Bush PR advice when new orleans was flooded? democracy doesnt work without an impartial free press and if you're looking for the number one reason our country is broken in so many ways, look no further than the liberal media.

Posted by: dummypants | May 27, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

People on this board are a freakin joke. The fact is there is nothing that the government can do to stop the leak that isnt being done. The guy from the coast guard made that pretty clear when he stated that if you got rid of BP who would we replace them with. We demand that no matter what things need to be now regardless of the situation. No one wants to face the truth on this. Which is that this is a situation that has never happened before. That we are in unchartered territory. But instead of blaming the lack of oversite, that allowed this and BP for taking shortcuts lets pile on this administration. Everyone needs to take a chill pill, this situation is not going to go away easy and rules need to used to make sure that it doesn't happen again!

Posted by: jhop1104 | May 27, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Obama sounds like a bumbling idiot,did he say one thing of substance?Obama sounded like he was telling a bad joke without a punchline,he has zero depth,how the hell did he get elected.

Posted by: gilliam | May 27, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I can see plain as day the guy who wrote this is a KNOW IT ALL who actually knows NOTHING !!!!

Posted by: yourmomscalling | May 27, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Everyone knows that he - nor anyone in his administration is doing anything at all - NOTHING.

The adolescent sportsman simply wants to drink, party, and celebrate his celebrity...a moron in the first degree.

Posted by: joesmithdefend | May 28, 2010 12:21 AM | Report abuse

John McCain is just a frustrated senile old man. No matter what Obama might say or do McCain won't like it. Since losing the presidential election John McCain has shown that he's an vicious, vindictive, loser that carries a personal hatred vendetta and is only out for revenge against everybody that he feels responsible for his humbling defeat. There's no doubt that John McCain is going to go down in history as not only being one of this counties biggest liar and warmonger, but the biggest sore loser in a presidential race. Here in AZ we're disregarding anything that John McCain says. The sooner all politicians like McCain are voted out of office the better we all will be. John McCain is the type of dirty politician that gives Washington a bad name.

Posted by: budsan1 | June 1, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

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