Barack Obama made a dull speech on Tuesday evening. And he made a frightened speech — an overly careful assembly of energy cliches likely to be remembered by no one. All this in the face of the greatest ecological catastrophe in American history, the seemingly unending oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
This was a man playing catch-up, aware that the public is apparently even less enamored of him on this issue than they were of George W. Bush on Katrina. It was time for Obama to show he cared. He didn’t do much of a job of that even. Obama is no Clinton. The current president doesn’t do empathy well. He seems like a man who has to be reminded to be empathic, even though in situations like the Gulf it is the most obvious presidential, really human, behavior. Yet it took him weeks to make this flaccid speech.
But let me be clear. There are many things for which I blame Barack Obama. I could make a long list from hugely destructive government over-spending to a foreign policy that Orwell might call “objectively pro-fascist.” But the oil disaster in the Gulf is not one of them. Barack Obama is no more responsible for the unending leak than Bush was for Katrina.
So he is not to blame for this and he really isn’t to blame that its solution has dragged on and on. He wasn’t elected as scientist-in-chief. He knows nothing about petroleum engineering, just as he knows nothing about global warming. We haven’t had a president with the skills of that type since Herbert Hoover — a mining engineer. In fact, Hoover was the only president we ever had with significant background and expertise to actually take a hands-on approach to a catastrophe of this nature.