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On BP spill, Obama puts his boot somewhere else

Responding to a question about his response to the BP oil spill on Tuesday’s Today show, President Obama insisted that he kicks ass.

"I don't sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar," he said. "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."

Look! Emotion! Anger! Anyone feel better now? Didn’t think so.

Of course, Allahpundit and others say that it’s a scripted soundbite. With reason. As I argued last week, any quivering-lip, fist-on-podium or off-color theatrics will appear staged simply because of the chronology -- they follow weeks of criticism of Obama’s apparent reticence to indulge in such things. I’m not sure the president can do much to combat that perception. And I don’t really want him to try.

Even if the president disappointingly surrenders to such criticisms in his messaging, that doesn’t make them fair. It’s a silly oversimplification to imply, as critics both left and right have, that if Obama isn’t obviously enraged about the spill, he must be negligently disengaged. It’s possible to be both angry and measured in one’s judgment and tone; in fact, that’s what you want in a president. That’s what leadership should be about. But according to critics on the left, apparently, it’s about amplifying their psychological distress, whether or not that leads to good decision-making. And according to the right it’s… well, I’m not really sure what the right wants Obama to change about his rhetorical response to the spill, except that it be different from whatever he’s doing at the moment.

I’d prefer that Obama did sit around a table, college seminar-style, with experts and a sense of urgency, talking about how to best organize the cleanup, not just to determine whose neck -- or other body parts, metaphorically speaking -- should feel the application of his boot. Criticize the president for the competence of the response. But stop wasting our time with shallow demands that he prioritize rage over reason.

By Stephen Stromberg  | June 8, 2010; 2:29 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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“…One theory of the oil spill is that the deepwater technology is inherently so complex and dangerous that it can't really be understood or regulated… Careless mistakes were made. Or regulators were co-opted by industry. Judgments were botched…But the prevailing assumption is that this accident was preventable, meaning that human error was responsible…”

Posted by: lindalovejones | June 8, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Stromberg, for this common sense statement. We're in the midst of a national catastrophe caused by one of the richest, most entitled oil companies in the world, and people want to complain about whether or not Obama is screaming enough? I guess the media has to play to the lowest common denominator, but the President doesn't. The President needs to be doing exactly what he's doing, ignoring the blathering idiots -- I include a lot of media people who churn up mindless conflict -- and meeting with the experts, making decisions, looking ahead, etc. None of the haters can say what they think he should do differently. My grandmother taught me that if you have a better idea, come forward and help the effort. If you only want to criticize what the helpers are doing, then go away and be silent. (She was too polite to say "shut up.")

The haters are always out in full force. They have no cool, no grace, and no better ideas. What ever happened to American fair play and decency?

Posted by: cturtle1 | June 8, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Obama's quietly measured response is refreshing after spending most of the millennium hearing "Bring it on!," "Mission accomplished," and "Heckuva Job!" bravado amid incompetence at protecting Constitutional rights, international relations, domestic economic management, and homeland security crisis response.

Posted by: jimcarravallah | June 8, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

i see now the leader of the free world feels he needs to be macho and have street creds like vice punk joe d'man! its sad to see these two playing skins ann shirts having their fingers on the trigger.

Posted by: crimson1 | June 8, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

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