Reagan: President’s casual approach no way to deal with a disaster 

Since last month’s oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, two very different leadership styles have been on display. On the one hand we have President Barack Obama, who took nine days before making a public statement on the spill. On the other, we have Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has been intensely and vocally involved from the beginning.

Now, we must recognize that during a presidency unexpected and unprecedented events will occur that cannot be blamed on the administration. And this is one of those cases. However, it is not always the event itself that causes the most trouble — it is the response to the situation that usually gets you.

In the wake of recent criticism, President Obama has been forced to backtrack and step up his attention to the oil spill. The spill — which may have already released 90 million gallons of oil into the Gulf and has now reached the marshes of Louisiana, “oiling” some 84 miles of the coast — is undoubtedly the greatest national disaster of the Obama presidency. Yet despite intense Democratic criticism for President George W. Bush’s response to a natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, in this same state, President Obama’s response has been underwhelming, to say the least.

Under the justification of maintaining a regular schedule and demonstrating calm, President Obama has cavalierly gone about with casual events, even fundraisers, choosing to keep most of his disaster response effort private. So private, in fact, that those of us living far away from the slick might even be forgiven for forgetting about it.

This is not a superficial matter for a president. Even if President Obama’s administration were, in fact, exercising the highest level of competency in dealing with the catastrophe, it is the job of a president to handle not only the practical matters of government, but to also be the public face to encourage, motivate, and inform the public. This is a job he is failing.

Down in Louisiana, people have seen a very different story. Gov. Jindal has engaged completely in all aspects of disaster relief efforts. He has been a tireless advocate for his state, challenging mistaken federal approaches and pressuring BP to make every possible effort to quell this spill. And when the focus is fully switched to clean-up efforts, the people of Louisiana can have every confidence that Gov. Jindal will continue in the manner he has begun.

I will be watching with the rest of the country to see where the president goes from here. And in the meantime, my prayers and support are with Gov. Jindal and the good people of Louisiana in the face of this tragedy.

Michael Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfoundation.org).

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Michael Reagan

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