The White House oil spill public relations offensive
President Obama's press conference last Thursday -- the one where his tough words didn't match his frustratingly detached demeanor -- marked the beginning of the public relations push by the White House to win the optical war in the gulf oil catastrophe. More "I'm in control here" actions are being taken. And there's more that could be done.
Energy adviser Carol Browner hit the roundtables on Sunday and the morning shows today. Obama will meet with his BP spill commission co-chairs this morning and then deliver remarks in the Rose Garden just after noon. The president is sending Attorney General Eric Holder to New Orleans today to meet federal and state prosecutors. He'll also hold a press conference this afternoon. The clearest signal yet that the boot on the neck of BP could soon turn litigious. And the days of sharing the podium with BP are over. Thad Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard tapped to be incident commander by Obama, will now give daily briefings solo.
In his Politico Playbook, Mike Allen, writes, "Count the days until you see President Obama on a boat in the Gulf." He may have been half joking (Mike Allen's got great sources, so he could be telegraphing the future), but I'm hoping it's true. I also hope the West Wing takes up Joe Scarborough's not-so-unreasonable request this morning that the next time Obama goes to Louisiana he stay overnight. I understand why the president's advisers didn't have him on the ground too long last Friday. They're sensitive to resources being diverted away from the oil-spill response to protecting (or showing off for) the president. They are right to be mindful of this.
But he went for a reason. Having the president on the scene of a disaster is an invaluable symbol of connection, empathy and command. There are other things that can be done to ensure that those symbols remain at the forefront of the minds of the American people.
When Obama goes to the Gulf Coast again, as he is descending the steps of Air Force One, long orange lines of boom (or whatever pieces of equipment Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal [R] has been demanding) should be coming out of the tail section -- in full view of the cameras. Thad Allen should do aerial surveys from a helicopter emblazoned with "United States of America" (think Marine One) so that folks can see that their government is on the case.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has been down there many times, including on Memorial Day. Other cabinet secretaries need to go down on rotation, too. For instance, Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should be sent down to address the illnesses being reported by oil spill clean-up workers. And she should be followed in subsequent visits by Dr. Francis S. Collins, Dr. Thomas Friedan and Dr. Margaret Hamburg -- respectively the chiefs of the National Institutes of Health, he Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.
These are just some ideas. I'm sure they've already thought of them and more that we'll see in the coming weeks and months. Right?
| June 1, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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