Some on the right, joining the president’s usual defenders, were sympathetic to Obama’s handling of the BP oil spill. A president isn’t all-powerful. We can’t expect him to prevent or repair all mishaps. True, but there were well-founded criticisms (from the affected governors, for starters) about the federal government’s response. It turns out Obama did indeed mismanage things from start to finish:
The Obama administration was slow to ramp up its response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, then overreacted as public criticism turned the disaster into a political liability, the staff of a special commission investigating the disaster say in papers released Wednesday.
In four papers issued by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, commission investigators fault the administration for giving too much credence to initial estimates that just 1,000 barrels of oil a day were flowing from the ruptured BP PLC well, and for later allowing political concerns to drive decisions such as how to deploy people and material—such as oil-containing boom—to contain the spreading oil.
As howls of protest increased, the administration overreacted:
As the spill dragged on into late May, the spill commission staff wrote, the administration appears to have misdirected resources in its efforts to counter the public view that its response was inadequate. By May 27, polls showed that 60% of respondents thought the government was doing a poor job of responding to the spill, the commission staff wrote.
In late May, President Barack Obama said he would triple the federal manpower to respond to the spill. But Coast Guard personnel told the commission in interviews that they had enough equipment by the end of May.
“Tripling, or at least the arguable overreaction to the public perception of a slow response resulted in resources being thrown at the spill in general rather than being targeted in an efficient way,” the commission staff wrote.
And then there is the most egregious error — the drilling ban, which was legally suspect and economically disastrous for the region.
It is true, as in so many areas of policy, that expectations for the president are unreasonably high. For that, he has only himself and his advisers to blame, for constructing a messianic campaign and operating with an alarming degree of hubris. But the “unfair expectations” defense is a bit of a dodge. In truth, Obama and his team do not perform well in a crisis, lack management skills, and repeatedly fail to gauge public reaction. That’s not a matter of unreasonable expectations; that is a lack of competency and a failure to meet the minimum requirements of the job.