News / USA

Gulf Oil Spill Major Political Challenge For Obama

President Barack Obama's decision to postpone a trip to Indonesia and Australia scheduled for later this month is the latest example of how U.S. domestic politics often trumps foreign policy concerns.  Mr. Obama decided to put off the Asian trip to deal with the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which now threatens to dominate his political agenda for the foreseeable future.  

On Friday President Obama paid his third visit to the Louisiana coast since the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded on April 20th, killing 11 workers and spewing a torrent of oil into the surrounding waters.

The president got a briefing on clean-up efforts along the Gulf coast.  Afterward, he vowed to keep pressure on the company responsible, oil giant BP, and said his administration would strengthen environmental and safety standards for future offshore drilling. "I do not want to see this repeated again, and the American people don't, and I promise you the people of the Gulf don't want to see it either," he said.

In Washington meanwhile, environmental protestors gathered in front of the local offices of BP, upset with its efforts to stop the oil spill. "We are tired of big oil polluting our political process," said one protestor.

Before his latest visit to the Gulf, President Obama told CNN he was furious about the oil spill, a comment that came after some critics complained that the president seemed disconnected from the crisis and was not displaying enough emotion.

Some Republicans have criticized the administration for being slow to respond to the magnitude of the crisis, including Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is considering a run for president in 2012. "He wants to say he's in charge.  That's great.  I'm glad he is assuming responsibility and accountability.  I wish he would have done it probably earlier," he said.

Coverage of the oil spill is dominating U.S. media, and the political fallout from the disaster has become a major political test for the Obama White House.

Kevin Whitelaw is with Congressional Quarterly magazine and is a guest on VOA's Issues in the News program. "And it has reached sort of saturation coverage level in all the U.S. media.  This is absolutely the biggest thing on Obama's plate.  He is cancelling foreign trips now.  The White House is in full, hardcore crisis response mode," he said.

This is the second time the White House has cancelled the trip to Indonesia and Australia, and both times the reason was domestic politics.  The trip was initially scheduled for March but put off because of the congressional vote on Mr. Obama's signature domestic achievement, enactment of health care reform.

A sampling of recent public opinion polls indicates the public is increasingly unhappy with the administration's response to the oil spill.

But Gallup pollster Frank Newport says it is too soon to know the political impact of the Gulf oil spill on the president's political fortunes. "We are monitoring that carefully.  Obama's job approval rating was down to 46 percent in the last week of May.  That is the lowest of his administration, but only by a point or so, so it is not like we have seen a dramatic drop-off.  And even then we are not exactly sure why Obama's rating would be lower, but it did drop some and there may be a little residual from that.  So far I would say it is not clear that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has dramatically affected Obama in a negative way," he said.

Some conservative commentators predict the Gulf oil spill could turn out to be President Obama's Katrina, a reference to the widespread criticism of former President George W. Bush's response to the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

Other analysts are starting to draw parallels to the Iranian hostage crisis that bedeviled President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and 1980.

Conservative commentator Bill Kristol spoke on Fox News Sunday. "Who is in charge?  Here is an easy way to think of it," he said. "And who is running this crisis from the White House?"

But President Obama's defenders say his administration is well aware of the political lessons from the Katrina disaster under President Bush.

Peter Beinart writes about domestic and foreign policy and is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington.  He's also a guest on VOA's Press Conference USA. "In policy terms, this is just one of the greatest disasters that we've seen in the United States in recent decades.  When Katrina happened you already had this widespread impression of Bush's incompetence as a result of Iraq.  That is the not the perception, by and large, that people have with Barack Obama.  I mean there are criticisms out there.  Conservatives think he is weak or socialist or whatever, but incompetence is not the stereotype that he labors under," he said.

That may be true for now.  But Gallup pollster Frank Newport cautions that public perceptions of the president could change depending on how long the oil spill disaster drags on. "Unfortunately the person in charge usually gets too much credit when things go right, but I say unfortunately for that person (because) he or she gets less credit and a lot of blame when things go wrong.  So if things continue to be bad in terms of the oil spill through the summer it may be hard for Obama to get out of the way of the negative reaction on the part of the American public," he said.

The administration's handling of the oil spill could become an issue in this year's midterm congressional elections, where Republicans expect to gain seats in November in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

You May Like

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs