Since last month's oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, two very different leadership styles have been on display. On the one hand we have President Obama, who took nine days before making a public statement on the spill. On the other, we have Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has been intensely and vocally involved from the beginning.
Now, we must all recognize that during the course of a presidency unexpected and unprecedented events will occur that cannot be blamed on the administration. And this is one of those cases. However, it is not always the event itself that causes the most trouble -- it is the response to the situation that usually gets you.
In the wake of recent criticism, President Obama has been forced to backtrack and step up his attention to the oil spill. The spill -- which may have already released 90 million gallons of oil into the Gulf and has now reached the marshes of Louisiana, "oiling" some 84 miles of the coast ---is undoubtedly the greatest national disaster of the Obama presidency. Yet despite intense Democratic criticism for President Bush's response to a natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, in this same state, President Obama's response has been underwhelming, to say the least.
Under the justification of maintaining a regular schedule and demonstrating calm, President Obama has cavalierly gone about with casual events, even fundraisers, choosing to keep most of his disaster response effort private. So private, in fact, that those of us living far away from the slick might even be forgiven for forgetting about it.
This is not a superficial matter for a president. Even if President Obama's administration were, in fact, exercising the highest level of competency in dealing with the catastrophe, it is the job of a president to handle not only the practical matters of government, but to also be the public face to encourage, motivate, and inform the public. This is a job he is failing.
Down in Louisiana, people have seen a very different story. Gov. Jindal has engaged completely in all aspects of disaster relief efforts. He has been a tireless advocate for his state, challenging mistaken federal approaches and pressuring BP to make every possible effort to quell this spill. And when the focus is fully switched to clean-up efforts, the people of Louisiana can have every confidence that Gov. Jindal will continue in the manner he has begun.
BP's latest attempt to staunch the oil, their "top kill" tactic, is now underway. This effort will involve pumping an intense concentration of heavy mud and cement into the oil flow in an effort to staunch the flow. Initial results are promising, but only time will tell how effective this will be.
Right now, residents of the Gulf Coast need the administration to demonstrate the type of leadership being exercised by Gov. Bobby Jindal. President Obama is now talking about the future of off-shore drilling, placing additional restrictions and extending the moratorium on drilling. None of this, however, deals with the realities of the oil currently pouring into the ocean, and the livelihoods of Louisianans which are being destroyed.
Again we see a pattern of lackluster efforts from our president. Words and a veneer of calm are not a demonstration of leadership. They do not serve as action and progress. And coming from an administration whose party trounced President Bush for his conduct in the Gulf, such "leadership" is not only ineffective, but actually hypocritical.
I will be watching with the rest of the country to see where the President goes from here. I hope he will exceed the pattern he has shown us so far. And in the meantime, my prayers and support are with Gov. Jindal and the good people of Louisiana in the face of this tragedy.
Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is spokesperson for The Reagan PAC (www.thereaganpac.com) and chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfoundation.org). Look for Mike's books and other information at www.Reagan.com. E-mail comments to [email protected]
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