Obama’s detachment on full display with oil spill 

BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward and President Obama want their old lives back, and no one can blame them: all of that luxury, all of that access, all of that leisure and glitz. Actually, for most of the crisis, Obama did have his old life -- extravagant dinners, musical evenings, fundraisers for Sen. Barbara ("Don't call me Ma'am") Boxer, D-Calif., leisurely holiday weekends at home.

It was only when polls showed the real toll of the crisis -- public disgust with the way he responded -- that he began to snap to. Peggy Noonan said he seemed "snakebit ... unlucky, like Jimmy Carter." Maureen Dowd said he was drowning in oil.

His potential was seeping away with the gusher, as Tina Brown put it. Pete Wehner, who ought to know (he lived through Katrina in the Bush 43 White House) called it "a political disaster for Barack Obama," causing significant, possibly permanent damage, "a metaphor for the Obama presidency" as it succumbed like a pelican on an oil-drenched beach.

No sooner had he floated this out on the blogosphere than Charles Blow of the New York Times op-ed page wrote of the "big plume of disappointment and sadness" that gushed out of the hole on the floor of the White House until it reached West 43rd Street in Manhattan, and finally covered the whole Eastern Seaboard itself.

Initially, the diagnosis was that Mr. Cool perhaps had an emotional deficit -- the downside of all that cerebral detachment -- but this wasn't quite accurate: He had, it turned out, a lot of emotion, but most of it (like with Hayward and the rest of the people at British Petroleum) turned more or less on himself.

Specifically, he seemed pissed as all hell that this collection of blunderers (and here he was accurate) had let something happen that turned out (aided, of course, by his own inept management) to reflect quite so badly on him. "I can't suck it up with a straw," Mr. Empathy snapped at a Gulf State resident, during one tour to console the "small people."

"For five weeks, it looked as though Obama considered the gushing ... a distraction, like a fire alarm going off in the middle of a law seminar," Dowd noted. "He'll deal with it, but he's annoyed."

Not so annoyed that he can whip up much indignation on behalf of the Gulf and its residents. "Have we really seen rage from the president?" Chip Reid asked his spokesman. "I've seen rage from him," Robert Gibbs answered. Reid wasn't certain.

"Does he yell and scream?" Reid asked him. "What does he do?"

"Obama has once more been browbeaten into showing he cares," Tina Brown added. "It would be nice if he lost the vaguely grudging air he gives off that problems of management get in the way of ideas."

With the ideas that he has -- health care "reform," cap and trade, additional stimuli and the decision to go to war with Arizona over its effort to control its own borders -- he should want a diversion before his numbers hit bottom.

But no.

But if the war on the spill isn't going too swimmingly, the fight for the status quo ante goes on. Obama, who often says he won't rest until something is fixed before going off on vacation, golfed for five hours on Saturday, having taken in a ballgame the previous evening.

Hayward attended a yacht race in England, watching his entry, a 52-foot vessel that sells for $700,000, compete. "He's spending a few hours with his family on a weekend," said a company spokesman. "I'm sure that everyone would understand that."

Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."

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