President Obama always seems to hide from the public eye at times when he should be attacking issues head-on. The past two months have exposed some significant faults in the way Obama handles the most pressing concerns of the day.
First, there was the Arizona Immigration Bill. Faced with Arizona’s abrupt illegal immigration reform, the Obama Administration immediately jumped to the side of minority special interest groups (his political allies) and condemned Arizona for overstepping its bounds. According to CBS News, the president denounced the bill as “misguided” and “poorly conceived,” but failed to produce any alternatives for border enforcement.
Whether the bill is the best approach to this issue is irrelevant. Arizona’s decision represents a call for action on an issue that has been sidestepped by this administration and others. Attorney General Eric Holder questioned its constitutionality, only to be humiliated by his own lack of knowledge about the issue, and has since taken no further action to defeat it. The current administration attempted to gain public opinion by manipulating this sudden action to its favor, and it ultimately backfired. Instead of tightening our border security from the beginning, Obama dithered around and frustrated border states by his prolonged inaction.
And for those who oppose any form of border enforcement, I bring you Exhibit B — the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf. Numerous times, the Obama administration argued they addressed the Gulf Oil Spill from “day one.” In reality, Obama did not take the situation seriously until word got out about the severity of these damages (about a week later). Of course, he was far too busy entertaining the Yankees at the White House to be concerned with the welfare of the environment and residents of the Gulf region.
When Obama finally held a press conference on May 27 to address this devastating crisis, he told America he was “not going to rest … or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at its source, the oil on the gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people of this region are able to go back to their lives and their livelihoods.”
These are some powerful words from our commander-in-chief — if only they were true. As the oil started making its way to the shore, Obama’s “superhero” image gradually puttered out and revealed a reversion back to politics as usual.
As Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said, “I think there could have been a greater sense of urgency.”
According to Jindal, one of the affected coastal regions only received half of the booms he requested, and deployment of this protective tool was significantly delayed due to bureaucratic intervention (as reported on ABC News). Likewise, according to the New York Times, Jindal was given federal approval for one sand barrier to protect the shore after state officials requested 24.
Jindal is not the only one complaining. Some of Obama’s top supporters — Democratic strategist James Carville and former Secretary of State Colin Powell — have criticized the administration for not utilizing all of its resources to contain the spill and limit the damages. We have seen the images of the Louisiana wetlands smothered in oil and the petroleum-coated sea life washing ashore. All of this could have been prevented if the gulf states were given the proper tools to defend the coast.
After hearing the voices of national criticism for his lack of involvement in this crisis, Obama has since said he takes “responsibility for solving this crisis” and has pledged to the Gulf region that they “will not be abandoned.” His proposals for action come too late, as the oil has already reached the shore, and left its mark on the Gulf Coast. At this point, the only thing the president can do is to try and salvage the rest of the coast. The rest is up to BP.
Obama needs to learn his lesson from these two unprecedented events. Immediate action does not simply mean holding a press conference after the fact. The president always has access to the latest information, and should be the first to take action. During times of crisis, the states need a helping hand.
As California students, we are all too familiar with the government’s tendency to delay action on important issues until it’s too late. Election seasons bring waves of promises to hopeful Californians, and yet the budget remains unbalanced, our education system gradually worsens and our potential employers continue to flee the state. Our leaders need to grow spines and re-prioritize.
Empty words of reassurance never quite make up for lost time.