Americans do love a show:
US President Barack Obama warned the US east coast was in for a “long 72 hours” as he led his government’s response to Hurricane Irene at a disaster command center in Washington.
Obama on Saturday chaired a meeting at the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) set up at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, which is marshaling federal and local hurricane-relief efforts.
“This is going to be a tough slog getting through this thing,” Obama said during a video teleconference including senior federal officials and local government agencies in the east coast path of Irene.
“It’s going to be a long 72 hours. Obviously a lot of families are going to be affected … the biggest concern I’m having right now has to do with flooding and power,” Obama said during the videoconference.
“(It) sounds like that’s going to be an enormous strain on a lot of states” that could last days, or even longer in some cases, he said.
Saturday evening Obama convened a conference call with members of his senior emergency response team including Vice President Joe Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, among others.
This is an example of the kind of thing that drives me crazy about US politics. We have a large bureaucracy with experts designed to handle these things- why do Americans demand a show of the President hunkered down in a bunker “taking charge?” The problem with the Bush response to national disasters and Katrina was not insufficient photo ops in a bunker, it was that they had completely gutted FEMA, screwed up the entire chain of command with confusion related to what is and what is not the purview of Homeland Security, and on top of it all, put an incompetent nitwit lawyer most noted for his association with Arabian horses in charge of the disaster response.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attacking Obama- I know why he is there, mainly because our idiot press would run with Republican narratives of Obama being detached or on vacation, etc. But he really shouldn’t need to be. All his work with natural disaster response should have been done months ago, when FEMA was properly staffed, funded, and trained. In a functional world, his real job right now should be to step back and let the experts handle this.
But you and I know the rules. He can’t. We need to see big daddy there “IN CHARGE” or we’ll be subjected to another round of Mark Knoller tweets discussing how many times Obama has golfed.
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.
Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV,
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free,
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see,
And your peasant-masters are happiest when you’re docile – occupied by something meaningless and content free.
Well put. If it were actuality his being there would be demonstration that his staff is not adeqately trained to handle it without him, which would be evidence of his incompetence. What it actually is is his acknowledgement of the incompetence of the media which insists on his “demonstration of being in charge.” Further, it is evidence that this nation is descending into chaos.
That’s what you sign up for as president. It’s is the realest of jobs and potentest of symbols all at once.
Maybe that’s why it ages one so.
Shlemizel - was Alwhite
Yup! I also wonder why we are so enamored with photo ops of Governors, Presidents and Vice Presidents getting in the way of recovery efforts. Does it really help to see first hand how much damage there is? Not if the responders have done their work correctly. All it does is put more useless people in the way of the work that needs to be done. Yet every one of these political jackwagons has to bee photographed expressing ‘concern’ and viewing damage.
Davis X. Machina
Monarchy is hard-wired into people.
The occasional royal progress, or touching for The King’s Evil is silly, but necessary.
Odie Hugh Manatee
It’s because we’ve become a nation of tough-talking wimps who need to be coddled. We blow each ‘disaster’ (real or imagined) into something of epic proportions, as if the rest of the world has never faced anything like it.
When it happens (or might happen) to ‘us’, then it’s important and we need LEADERSHIP NOW! If it happens to anyone else in the world?
I think Obama needs a bat cave where there are television screens covering the wall that show the storm approach from every city up the coast. Then Obama can wear a headset where he talks to all of his pointmen to delegate action needed to cope with the disaster. Maybe that would satisfy them.
It’s what I call the “posse” approach to government: Rather than building a system for dealing with emergencies, Americans seem trapped in this Western movie fantasy about a bunch of enterprising citizens who just goes out there and fix things on their own initiative. If your emergency response depends on the personal intervention of the guy in the White House, then it is already fatally flawed.
@Davis X. Machina:
“The occasional royal progress . . .”
Love it. :-)
From MLK’s last speech:
we’ve made the President the face of the entire government (exec agencies, the actions of Congress, the Fed – though somehow SCOTUS is excluded). everything it does or doesn’t do gets blamed on or credited to the President. so, Obama has to pretend he actually does run everything, or the press will say he was unconcerned.
Amen to that. If you put together a good team they won’t need your help, and if you put together a bad team it’s too late and your obviously incompetent presence isn’t going to make things any better.
Probably a lot of people here have been in that situation: you’re in a good team, know your jobs, and some Take Charge bigwig swoops in, fucks up the command structure, interferes with staff decisions because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and you can’t say no, and makes your job twice as difficult. And if he fucks up the situation, don’t worry, you’ll be blamed for it anyway.
It’s called Perception. Having you forgotten what the Cable News were complaining about during the BP oil blow out in the Gulf Region? In fact Chip Reid asked Robert Gibbs why the President was not in Gulf region dealing with the disaster. What about the ‘we are doomed’ screaming that was coming from Chris Mathews? That is how things are done for the cable news.
Via Benen, the stupidest editorial of all time.
There’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what leadership means in large operations. If a leader’s work is done properly he might as well sleep through the crisis, because there’s nothing he can do but interfere.
But many people expect a leader to be Sgt, Rock shouldering a 50 caliber and taking the hill all by himself.
Don’t all of the firebaggers commenting here think Obama controls everything too? It’s not just a dysfunctional press we’re talking about, this whole country is suffering from infantilism.
To be deviant here, I think it actually can be of value in improving the response. Bureaucracies tend to work within the bounds of the plan that was made before the confrontation with the messy reality of the situation. People want to demonstrate that they can succeed while playing within the plan and those responsible for the plan want to demonstrate its adequacy. I think we saw demonstrated after Katrina and Deepwater Horizon cases where the plan was inadequate and its bounds needed to be broken, now. The president can break those bounds.
@Cat Lady: Do you think name calling is infantile?
@PeakVT: There are so many candidates, how can this be the stupidest?
The NYT broaches the idea of climate change and resulting storms.
I really don’t know if there is strong relationship or not, but such discussions probably piss off the right wing fundies and so are worthwhile.
The media is incompetent.
Irene’s path has moved steadily west from what was predicted days ago; also the intensity has been down graded. So now Martha’s Vineyard is just being grazed by the storm.
But, just out of prudence, a tiny island in the Atlantic is not the safest place for the Leader of the Free World in the middle of a hurricane.
a Boston reader
@arguingwithsignposts: Fair enough. But the sheer stupidity plus the awful timing make that one a classic.
I thought The Weather Channel and all the local weather reports and forecasts got their data and information from the NWS. Shows what a commie pinko DFH I am, huh?
@Odie Hugh Manatee: Bingo. We need coddling and we need someone to blame if it goes wrong and our fee fees get hurt.
I believe climate change is happening and it’s caused by greenhouse gasses, but I don’t think you can draw a causal relationship to current weather. The climate and weather patterns vary in natural cycles over the course of years, decades and centuries. It’s possible that atmospheric heating is affecting tropical storms but it’s not possible to prove it from a small number of data points in a short time span.
@PeakVT: Yes, classic is a good word. In the race to stupidest, there are no winners, sadly.
Apparently Weather Underground uses different models than NOAA, fwiw. But most local weathercasters use NOAA. Fuckin’ commies.
Media needs pictures like Mars needs women.
@WereBear: Mars needs guitars!
Doesn’t bother me, nor did it with Bush or any other president. Leaders need to be seen leading now and then, so the chickenshit voters can shop without a worried mind.
There actually is a serious answer. Stuff happens that only the President can respond to, such as a situation where the National Guard has to be federalized and called out to deal with, say, a damn collapse.
@SiubhanDuinne: AFAIK local weatherman either use the NOAA forecast directly, or modify it slightly based on their own experience. But one government agency or another is the source of all official data, and run all the radar stations and weather satellites.
ETA: Mars Needs Guitars.
I think you’re probably correct.
Or when people were dying for days in New Orleans while the active military had thousands of helicopters sitting idle. The president is the one who can say “fuck the plan, they fly now.”
@agrippa: The media is bought and paid to gin confrontation and not to inform or educate the people. These lazy media people are paid to DISINFORM you. What substance do you get when they report on Palin?
Do calm down, John Cole. Theater is part of a president’s job, you know that, starting with the pomp and ceremony of state and going all the way down into retail politics. It is most definitely not just an American thing: remember David Cameron’s walk through London after the riots? As long as Obama’s doing just enough to maintain appearances and not actually hindering any rescue or relief work (by a FEMA restored to competence on his watch), he’s doing it right; and people on his side should really chill out.
At other times, frontpagers and commenters on this blog have criticized Obama for not performing enough political theater — not boasting of his victories enough, not using the “bully pulpit” enough, not being combative enough with Republicans, not providing his supporters with enough feel-good moments to keep their spirits up. Maybe those criticisms are valid at that, but that’s not what’s going on right now.
The inaction of the Bush Administration during the Katrina fiasco necessitates Obama’s posture of involvement in the current emergency. Yeah, it’s playing to the media, but also stops a potential GOP attack dead in it’s tracks.
Small changes like this add up, reinstalling confidence in government.
@wrb: This would assume there was not a plan in place to discredit a dem governor.
Heard a news report from Spring Lake NJ. The mayor was commenting on the damage to the boardwalk and she said that they got help from FEMA 15 years ago and she was sure they would be there to help again put things back to normal. No mention of her party affiliation, but I hope she learns about what Eric Cantor has been saying and also Ron Paul’s comments about not needing FEMA.
Another troll back from the dead. Thank goodness for the pie filter.
You can apply that filter to yourself?
You still wanking over at that PUMA shithole, Confoolence?
Or did you branch out with yer own leach line?
@TheWorstPersonInTheWorld: If I was you I’d certainly give it a try.
Now watch this drive.
@SiubhanDuinne: No, you’re right. The private companies do get their data from NOAA and NWS. They may be faster with analysis and may present it better but they don’t have the monitors which produce the information.
Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason
@Davis X. Machina:
This seems to sum it up correctly for me. Subjects really do want to understand that the King cares about them. In the UK, they would have the PM and cabinet taking care of the problem, and QE II walking amongst the people. Here in the US, the Founders gave us the President, an office which has to take on both functions.
So as long as the President sets up FEMA and the bureaucracy does its job, I’m OK with the photo ops. It may seem silly, but it’s a necessary part of disaster response. On an emotional level.
Bush managed to blow both elements of this job description during Katrina.
I see what you’re saying, but…
1) It’s damn refreshing to see a president in action before a disaster instead of after, no?
2) Sometimes priorities are solidified by direct involvement from the top — if the president is taking it seriously, then it’s serious, both for the organization, and in the public eye.
3) On a psychological level it probably helps the FEMA people hold up better during the strain knowing the very top is in genuine support.
..and not a few on the left also believe that..
Obama is there to personally fix things — everything that needs to be fixed and pronto. There is no shared responsibility, or any progression of events, steps, accountability — he is the only one. And of course, we the people, have NO responsibility.
I see your points and agree..
I’m seeing Bruce Willis recruiting a team to blow up an asteroid while President Morgan Freeman beats the shit out of terrorists with his own fists on Air Force One…
Now it’s Obama didn’t show compassion for people during Irene.
It never stops.
As someone pointed out, a small, flat island (I’ve been there) in the ocean potentially in the path of a hurricane is not the best place for POTUS to be, if only because of the possible loss of communication with other government entities. And if you have to move, why not make a photo-op at the same time? It does no harm and may neutralize a little of the poo-flinging.
A Conservative Teacher
It’s nice to see that you are consistent- one hurricane hits and the local authorities mess it up and you blame Bush, and another hurricane hits and the local authorities don’t mess it up and you are critical of Obama.
Our idiot press (at least the wingnuttia portion) was already running with bullshit narratives about da blackie black president takin’ them fancy vaycayshuns, before Irene threatened.
Obviously, the trip a political move to distinguish himself from Bush’s air guitar moment. But it also might have puckered up a few assholes at FEMA and made sure they had their shit dialed in. Contrast that with Katrina, when the whole approach was that the oft-predicted catastrophe was unforeseeable, and btw do you like my tie?
Listening to Gov. Cuomo phone call via NY1. There was an earthquake centered near Albany last night, near a dam and power plant.
I don’t know how many Americans demand this, the idiot press certainly does. As I’ve said a hundred times, I never blamed Bush for looking “detached” after Katrina, I blamed him for staffing government positions with cronies and morons.
@A Conservative Teacher: Speaking of consistency, it is nice to see you keeping up your end.
I, for one, felt much safer in my basement knowing that POTUS was in the FEMA HQ. I felt even safer when I imagined him with a really concerned-yet-determined look on his face. Oh, and his shirt sleeves were probably rolled up too.
I have in my hand CONFIRMED REPORTS that the President actually voided his bowels while Hurricane Irene was wrecking havoc and destruction and people were losing their lives. While ordinary Americans were without power, President Obama was sitting on the pot, reading a magazine, his pants around his ankles, and NOT IN CHARGE OF ANYTHING but wiping his own ass. Is this the kind of leadership we want? Is this the Commander-in-Chief we want, one who will just think it’s OK for him to sneak off like a thief, telling only his “inner circle” where he’s going, then hold his breath and strain until he’s done evacuating?
While President Obama was in the bathroom, several Gaddafi loyalists attacked the rebels in Tripoli, millions were still unemployed, the deficit rose by 9 billion, and Caley Smith’s cat, Mr. Fuzzybottom, got stuck in a tree. He was not at his post. He was not on watch for these multiple disasters. Instead he was seated on a porcelain throne, without a care in the world, calmly fiddling with toilet paper. President Obama should resign immediately from his office, as it is obvious to anyone with a working mind that he is unfit to be President of these United States of America.
Hey Cole. If you want to know why Obama has to do this why not look in the mirror. It’s because of moron voters like you who voted for the Texas dummy twice and are willing to give Libertarians a go.
So next time you are looking to blame someone for the current political discourse, look in the mirror.
@PeakVT: Thanks for the link, Peak.
Folks, for once this is one worth getting out of the boat for. Conservatives’ commitment to utter stupidity and slavish worship of this imaginary thing called The Free Market could not be better demonstrated than it is in this article.
Do you actually read this blog?
@different church-lady: Cole and others have linked to libertarians on occasion, and that’s enough for Derf (and for m_c, come to think of it). critical reading ability is not at the top of some people’s skill set.
@A Conservative Teacher:
Obama’s current FEMA director was a Republican state appointee in Florida. That’s why he hired him. Because he had ten years managing hurricane response in Florida. Sensible, no? When I say “hurricane” what state comes to mind?
President Bush could have done that. Hired on merit. It’s not like we lack experienced disaster response managers at the state level, what with all those states we have.
Instead Bush hired the horse association lawyer.
We all make choices, don’t we? And then we have to live with the consequences.
Being conservative means never having to take responsibility for your actions or saying you’re sorry. That shit is for the little people.
@A Conservative Teacher:
Bush hired a former federal judge for Homeland Security, and Obama hired a former governor.
What does a federal judge manage, other than a docket and a staff?
These choices the two men made are interesting, because they seem to go against the idea that conservatives value merit, or experience, or (most inexplicably) state government.
Obama seems to be practicing your lofty ideals, but, oddly enough, conservative leaders don’t.
You’re all talk. Blah, blah, blah. Seat another round table at CATO and blather about the laboratory of the states. Then hire well-connected cronies with no practical experience.
@Omnes Omnibus: I ain’t exactly claiming this as a scientific study, but as memory serves me they link to libertarians mostly to mock them. Thus, my petard.
@Omnes Omnibus: Once a groupie always a groupie. Every time you comment it inspires me to post even more.
Most of the time. However. Bush and his buddy Brownie really did become infamous for inept emergency response. They earned it, too. How much could President Bush have cared, to make such a cavalier, silly choice? How much thought went into that choice? Not much.
How familiar are people with Obama’s FEMA director? Not very. I bet he hopes it stays that way.
I think it’s one of those jobs where if people don’t know your name you’re doing it right :)
Ella in NM
The President of the United States SHOULD give a crap about a major national disaster that will cost billions to clean up and effect the lives of millions of people scattered up and down the entire coast of his country.
I think it’s a great picture to leave in the minds of the people he serves, given that skinny, shriveled-balls twit Cantor just recently gloated that Irene was an “opportunity” and that he would hold any FEMA or other relief funds hostage to budget cuts.
@PurpleGirl: It was a 2.9, though. It’s highly unlikely that a 2.9 will do any damage. The Mineral, VA earthquake as ~1000 as powerful and the damage from it was minimal.
ETA: A little more than minimal, but hardly widespread.
Just can’t help hoping that FEMA folks–lifers, civil servants who survived any GOP putsch–get to answer phone calls with “FEMA: Under new managment.”
And the most latent image of Shrub from Katrina was him circling over NOLA looking studiously out the window of AF1, in photographs one could buy.
So, yeah, any optics which Obama wishes to engage in is cool by me. We’re not gonna get a mirror image equivalent of Mary Landrieu, livid about how the Bushies’ PR response to blame Katrina on her and Mayor Navin far outpaced anything the administration and “Heckuva job” could accomplish with actual FEMAness.
@different church-lady: Right back at you.
Riddle me this. Which poster here has openly supported Greenwalds candidate Johnson for Prez? Selective amnesia much?
Who here has on occasion supported libertarian positions of antiwar no matter what? Even if it also means you would have to accept their anti child labour laws and anti civil rights laws positions.
Actually, John, I think you’re completely wrong. The reason it’s important that Obama is out there looking like he cares is because if he does care, he will have taken the time and effort to appoint competent people to the posts. And then show that he expects them all to be on point and ready to go.
Bush’s total cluelessness that he was even supposed to care reflected the fact that he hadn’t appointed anyone competent (except by mistake). And the folks took their cue from him once the disaster struck.
Symbolic actions matter a lot to humans. If the person at the top is engaged, then you assume that goes all the way down the line (or heads will roll). That’s been part of the reason for criticism of Obama in some of his other fights — he’s not out there and present enough, so people assume that the folks behind the scene aren’t feeling the urgency either.
@Derf: Openly supported? Really? Care to point to that?
Cole mocks libertarians on a regular basis — just choose “glibertarian” from the categories list. And as far as I can tell he’s politically all over the map. He might be Jello but you can’t pin him to the wall.
@RossInDetroit: This is a misunderstanding of the Leadership role. A leader’s job is not technical or operational. The job of leader is to provide vision and motivate his staff. You may have excellent systems in place and well trained staff but any perception from those who most need to act that you as their leader doesn’t care and simply expect them to do what they are paid to do will blunt their sharpness and sap their enthusiasm. A leader doesn’t interfere with operations; he gives those who need to act the legitimacy and enthusiasm to do so. The navy seals and CIA were just as capable of catching and killing bin Laden under GWB. They just didn’t have the leadership that expected and inspired them to do it. A good leader is visible to the people who most matter and does not sleep through crises just because he believes his people must be prepared to do their jobs. They need him because human beings operate best under good leadership. Obama is a good leader and does not play to the press. His actions on this crisis and all others are not for the cameras but the dedicated and expert staff who carry out interventions on his behalf. They need to know that their work is appreciated by their ultimate leader and they need his vision. This article has good intentions but is weak in understanding leadership in scientific terms and imputes motives on the President that are inaccurate. He is not doing this because of the press but because it is what good leaders do. We are seeing leadership 101 in action.
@different church-lady: If you can’t be bothered to use the search bar yourself or you selectively ignore the truth then why should I waste my time playing your games?
I agree with this. Engagement does not have to equal micro-management. But, I want the guy at the top to check with the lieutenants to be sure the overall plan is sound and understood by all. Bush’s total lack of understanding of the threat posed by Katrina was on full display – even during his photo op planning session. Obama is accountable for the response of the federal government. So, I think he should be engaged up front and setting the tone.
Well, I agree, John, but it’s part of being President. What is he gonna do?
@Derf: Burden of proof, blah blah blah, cop out, etc.
Besides, I did use the search bar and didn’t come up with what you said. In fact I used it before I hit send. Because that’s how I roll.
So, if you don’t want me to toss you in the bin marked “blowhard” it’s gonna require at least a touch of proactive effort on your part.
@different church-lady: Why don’t you ask Cole yourself? If he had any balls he would respond.
It is no secret Cole is Libertarian curious just like his hero Greenwald. Seems you are the only one around here in the dark or perhaps just selectively so.
Ella in NM
Well, I’ve been around here a pretty long time, and that is not my perception at all. So maybe there’s more than one of us in the dark…like a whole lottavus?
Doubt it. ;-)