Home > Political Game-Playing, Right-Wing Hypocrisy, The Obama Administration > Obama’s [Insert Crisis Meme Here]

Obama’s [Insert Crisis Meme Here]

June 1st, 2010

You can almost smell the desperation among the right wing to smear Obama in any way they can, using the time-honored political strategy of throwing as much mud as they can at him until something sticks. But in their method they betray their shallow, self-contradictory nature. Obama is a socialist, they tell us. He’s a communist. And he’s a fascist. Which is kind of like trying to say that he’s a Democrat, a Libertarian, and a Republican–they don’t mix.

In the BP oil spill disaster, the right wing sees a glimmer of hope, in that there’s a terrible incident that covers a span of time, so of course it can be blamed on Obama. At first, they saw an environmental disaster hitting the Gulf region, and naturally glommed onto the idea that this was “Obama’s Katrina.” However, the meme didn’t catch on; whereas Bush was immobile and inept, Obama is merely unsuccessful. Hurricanes are something that the US government is expected to act on promptly and with vigor; oil spills, not so much. The government’s handling of Katrina was hampered by stagnation, corruption and cronyism within the bureaucracy which Bush was responsible for; the government’s responsibility for the BP oil spill also harkens back to corruption–but not Obama’s, as Bush was the one who deregulated the industry to allow this to happen. With Katrina, Bush delayed ending a vacation, and dallied for five days before ordering in the national guard while people starved, were abandoned, and died; Obama has been doing about all that a president can for such a crisis–that it is taking so long is not a matter of incompetence, but rather the difficulty involved. It took ten months to stop a similar–but less disastrous–oil spill in the Gulf back in 1979. Had Obama’s direction been able to cap this leak after just one and a half months, it would have been miraculous, not a failure.

So the “Obama’s Katrina” story didn’t work–but the right-wingers felt they could tack this on Obama if only they had the right slogan. So in came “Obama’s 9/11.” Forget that this claim betrays the idea that 9/11 was a failure on the part of the government to respond well to a severe crisis, something right-wingers insist was not the case. And forget that the right wing tried to say that the economic crisis was “Obama’s 9/11,” or that the New York Times Square bomber incident was “Obama’s 9/11,” just like Haiti was supposed to be “Obama’s Katrina” before the oil spill was. One reason they fail is because they just don’t resonate: the oil spill is a terrible disaster, but not a political scandal. Who associates Bush 41 with the Exxon Valdez? Nobody–they associate Exxon with the Exxon Valdez. Fact is, the public doesn’t blame presidents for oil spills.

So the 9/11 meme didn’t gain any traction–the comparison was kind of silly, and right-wingers may not have liked the inference that 9/11 was a failure that could be blamed on the previous administration.

In fact, right-wingers may have started to become aware of how revealing it was that they were constantly trying to assign Bush scandals to Obama–Obama’s Katrina, Obama’s 9/11, Obama’s Enron, Obama’s Harriet Miers, Obama’s “Mission Accomplished,” Obama’s Iraq War, and so on. It highlighted the fact that the Bush administration was hip-deep in scandals, validated the idea that Bush’s scandals were indeed his fault, and came across as a desperate ploy to “hand off” the scandals to a Democratic administration in the hopes that Bush would no longer look so bad.

As a result, we are now seeing a different approach: The BP oil spill, we are now being told, is “Obama’s Iran Hostage Crisis.” The parallel is supposed to be that this is a long-drawn out crisis which will kill the president’s chances of re-election.

Yeah, good luck on that one. When it fails, what next? Obama’s Vietnam? Obama’s Great Depression? Obama’s Appomattox? Obama’s Boston Massacre? It could be months before the spill is finally plugged; the right wing will have the chance to try out a variety before the well runs dry.

Can’t wait to hear the next meme.

  1. June 1st, 2010 at 11:14 | #1

    Okay, I’m calling it now … a young girl will stand up, point at Obama, scream “HE BEWITCHED ME!” and fall to the ground. This will be, you guessed it, Obama’s Salem Witch Trial.

  2. Tim Kane
    June 1st, 2010 at 12:51 | #2

    Well done, again, Luis.

    Some minor tweaks:

    I would say that the Bush Administration was “Neck deep in failures”.

    As far as hostage crisis, who is holding whom hostage?

    I’d say BP is holding America (‘s environmental treasures) hostage. And again, most people will see BP as a confederate of the Republicans. There would be no crisis if their weren’t any lax in regulations.

    How’s that “Drill,Baby, Drill” workin’ out fer ya now, Sara (in)Palin?

    Not toooo gooood.

    Drill, Baby, Drill will kill Republican chances for at least two election cycles (my prediction).

    So, something good is coming out of this disaster after all.

  3. Troy
    June 1st, 2010 at 16:09 | #3

    The following is not apropos Obama or the Republicans, but is apropos the 社会主義 thing.

    Doing some internet argumentation over the weekend I dug down into Norway’s oil industry and how they 社会化 it. I knew they had a Permanent Fund like Alaska and Alberta but did not know how amazing it is.

    The Norwegian government owns 30% of the oil sector outright, and places heavy leases and royalty rates on private companies that want to extract its oil.

    Norway has been the top non-OPEC producer in the 90s, and still pumps 2 million barrels per day (and has a population of under 5 million) so by all rights everyone in Norway should be a Saudi prince.

    But what the government did was clever — they are going for capital formation with this massive income stream and not present consumption, so they are investing around half the money in the global stock market (other half in bonds), and now Norwegians collectively own about 1% of the total global equity.

    Unlike Alberta, they limit their pull from this fund to 4% per year, so the bulk of the Norwegian welfare state’s cost still comes from high taxation common among the 社会 countries.

    I think this is sheer brilliance, and I wonder if it is intentional or a happy accident (for it’s my understanding that if the Norwegians lowered their taxes and tried to live off their oil income, what would happen would be that they would all just bid up the price of land and other goods in limited supply).

    To put some numbers on this, the US’s social security trust fund is $2T, or about $20,000 per household. Norway’s Pension Fund is 10X that, $200K per household. But what’s worse, our SSTF is really only $1T of actual savings, the other $1T comes from the Treasury just printing more bonds and calling it accrued interest (at about $100B/yr right now), while for better or worse their pension fund is fully invested in global equities and earns what it can there.

    CalPERS, the California public employee retirement system has a “sovereign wealth” fund that is similar in size and mission to the Norwegian Pension fund, but it stands at $200B now for 1.6M members, or $130,000 per member. Not bad compared to social security perhaps, but the capital contributions into this fund came from employees’ paychecks, not for free like the Norwegian Fund, and it remains to be seen if the CalPers defined benefit plan can withstand the boomer retirement and its demand for healthcare and generous pension payouts.

    Norway really does look like 社会主義 done right. I’d like to go over there for a summer to see if the reality is as good as the hype.

  4. matthew
    June 2nd, 2010 at 00:20 | #4

    Nice post Luis. Well done.

  5. Luis
    June 2nd, 2010 at 01:32 | #5

    Thanks, all. Sean, I had considered using the Salem witch trials–another good possibility, especially in that it would be a far more appropriate Republican misdeed. But I stopped at just before the revolution for examples.

    Tim: neck-deep indeed–maybe deeper. The fact that the hostage analogy doesn’t hold is simply evidence that the analogy is purely political, not an analogy in fact. They make the comparison only i terms of how it could damage Obama, beyond which it’s meaningless.

    Troy–don’t get me started. I have always been outraged at how the American public is so easily ripped off by corporations with D.C. in their pocket. We give away the airwaves for free, we give away land for free, we give away oil rights for free–and then pay to get them back, and then give the same corporations tax breaks even when they’re enjoying record profits.

  6. Tim Kane
    June 2nd, 2010 at 09:54 | #6

    The latest:

    BP is Bush’s second Katrina.

Comments are closed.