I was about as shrill a critic of George W. Bush as you are going to find, but I always thought it was grossly unfair that the media used that picture of him touring New Orleans by airplane as “proof” that his administration had botched the Katrina response. The problem with the Katrina response wasn’t that Bush appeared detached in a photograph, it was that there were no fucking FEMA personnel arriving in New Orleans days after civilians were able to get there in rented vehicles. It was fair to blame Bush for the response, in the end, because it was his administration’s staffing decisions at FEMA that most likely caused the problems. But that has absolutely nothing to do what kind of look he had on his face when he was surveying the damage. Nothing.
[W]atching the CNN dimwits after the conference solemnly advising us one after one that Obama really needed to be more emotional because that’s what the American people want — well, screw that. I have no idea what the American people want, and neither do they. [….]
I guess it’s the kabuki of our times. The president has to be In Charge whether he can actually do anything or not.
Of course, what everyone should be asking is not what the feds are going to do about capping the leak, but what they’re going to do to make sure all the oil is cleaned up afterward. That’s finally starting to get some attention now that oil is onshore, but the story is much bigger than that. There’s 20 million or more gallons of oil sitting in a huge underwater plume off the shore of Louisiana right now, and the big question is what BP is going to do about that. And what we’re going to do to make deepwater platforms safer in the future. If the “top kill” effort to stop the spill works, the dramatic part of this story will finally be over. The real part will just be starting.
(Of course, the press won’t pay much attention to the clean-up. Even Chris Matthews can’t expect a president to get emo about a clean-up.)
The more serious the disaster, the more important the minutiae of our leaders’ rhetoric and facial gestures become.