The Oily Obama Press Conference

Update VIII: Big Pink favorite Craig Crawford agrees with us:

“A defensive, un-authoritative, and equivocal Barack Obama did nothing today to show he’s in charge of what appears to be our biggest oil spill in history. He couldn’t even answer whether or not he had fired someone.

Today’s press conference — his first since July — was a time for the President to demonstrate he is on top of the crisis. Despite repeated assertions of control, Obama’s awkward demeanor suggested just the opposite. He came across as a beleaguered bureaucrat on damage control.

Perhaps the most stunning missed opportunity to show some authority was his non-answer to a question about whether US Minerals Management Service Director Elizabeth Birnbaum was fired. “I found out about her resignation today,” he obliquely said.

While Birnbaum’s departure is hardly at the top of the list of concerns in this disaster, Obama’s detachment was indicative of the impression he has allowed of a president on the sidelines.”

Before the publicity stunt Crawford had some wise things to say as well.

Tom Bevan on Obama’s failed, oily publicity stunt:

“If Obama had given today’s press conference four weeks ago, he might be in far less hot water than he’s currently in. But stepping up to the teleprompter 38 days after the initial spill, with all the intervening time and press coverage of the event, and asserting that he’s been on top of it like white on rice since Day One comes across very much like historical revisionism from the department of C.Y.A.

The press, to the extent they do their jobs, should be able to easily go back through the chronology of the last five weeks and find plenty of gaping holes in Obama’s claim of instant, constant, and urgent engagement on behalf of the White House and his administration. Obama said he’d leave the Katrina comparisons to the media which, given the skepticism expressed by some of the questions by reporters, is something he might live to regret.

Two other problems with the press conference, one factual and one stylistic. The first: it came across as contradictory for Obama – again, for a man who claims to be waking up and going to bed thinking about nothing else – to be so uninformed about the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Elizabeth Birnbaum, the director of MMS.”

It appears “daddy” did not plug the hole he dug for himself. “Daddy” also has a Sestak hole to fill. We expect that hole will be covered tomorrow with a brand new stonewall.

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Update VII: What is ultimately terrifying is if we believe Barack Obama, which we don’t. Imagine for a moment, if Barack Obama is telling the truth, which he is not. If Obama is to be believed, he really did do the best he can, he really did exert himself – that is scary. If that is the best he can do the oceans will rise, the planet will keel.

Here’s Politico’s sympathetic version of today’s silly publicity stunt:

“Those who think that we were either slow in our responses or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred,” Obama said during a rare news conference in the White House East Room. “We understood from day one the potential enormity of this crisis and acted accordingly.” [snip]

“There shouldn’t be any confusion here: the federal government is fully engaged and I’m fully engaged,” he said.

Obama also tried to address critics of the government’s role by making an unequivocal declaration: the federal government is heading up the relief and cleanup response.

The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began the federal government has been in charge of the response effort,” he said. “Make no mistake: BP is operating at our direction.”

The past month is supposed to assure Americans? This is the best the Boob can do?

At today’s publicity stunt Obama also stated he did not know whether Liz Birnbaum quit or was fired. Imagine that. We are supposed to believe that on the matter of a major quit/firing – a few hours before a nationally televised press conference, a person who says he is deeply involved in the details and “in charge”, “fully engaged” does not know what happened on a simple bureaucratic question. Obama says he is in charge but does not know anything and we are supposed to believe and be satisfied.

No doubt the Hopium guzzler Big Boy blogs will accept Obama’s version of reality. But even if you accept the Sergeant Schultz “I know nothing, nothing….” excuses along with the “I am the President” ego fluffery – this is a worrisome reality we are in.

On the Sestak matter Obama likewise appears to know nothing but assures us there will be a “response” soon. No doubt the response will come late on a Friday of a holiday weekend busy with news. Hey, what about tomorrow on Memorial Day weekend Friday?

Expect the “response” tomorrow after additional publicity stunts from the Chicago clown.

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Update VI: Major Garrett asks “are you comfortable with boots on the neck” type rhetoric. What about Sestak?

Obama: Very shortly, we will put out a “response” on the Sestak matter. As to Salazar who came up with the “boots’ language, he was upset. Salazar can speak for himself.

Obama ends with more homey references, from the TelePrompTer, about how the ocean is sacred and his little girl asks him if the “hole is plugged” (a vulgarity in tone) while he shaves in the bathroom. He is really, really, really, concerned. No doubt the concern is about his political well being.

Press conference ends with Obama taking responsibility and then just as quickly letting go of it.

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Update V: Latin America correspondent has a question on the troops sent to the Mexican border.

Obama repeats he is the president. He does not like the Arizona law but won’t explicitly call for a boycott (an oily way to call for a boycott).

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Update IV: Jackie Calmes: Following up on Chip Reid, weeks before the disaster you approved the drilling even though you say you knew the mess the Minerals agency was in.

Obama: We need oil. Where I was wrong was in believing the oil companies. They said there were safety provisions. But this was unprecedented and my assumptions proved to be incorrect.

Another from Calmes: What in blazes was Salazar doing? Was Birnbaum fired?

Obama: I don’t know if Birnbaum was fired, I’m too busy. Salazar is doing a heckava job.

Obama takes a shot at Sarah Palin by saying he never said “Drill Baby Drill”. He follows that shot by saying how he has tried to work with Republicans.

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Update III: Steve Thomas: You said you were ready on Day 1 so why then are things still developing and equipment still being sent?

Obama says the same things again. Even sort of sheepishly admits that by citing his answer(?) to Tapper.

Chip Reid: Was Elizabeth Birnbaum fired, why? Should other heads role? Salazar has blamed Bush for the cozy relationship with regulators and oil companies. Reid says who knew all that so why didn’t things change.

Obama’s Oily Answer: We changed things. But… But… the “culture” of the agency did not change fast enough and I can’t do anything about that. Oh, and Birnbaum quit.

Julianna is next: Can BP information be trusted? Obama says BP’s interests align with the public interest!!!! After some running around Obama admits – The interest of BP might be to minimize the damage. This is where we might have fallen short, but this does not contradict my previous oily answer. Obama also throws HOPE under the bus and further admits we should have prepared for the worst.

Helen Thomas: When are we getting out of Afghanistan and don’t give us the Bushism that we have to go there so they don’t come here? Obama immediately proceeded to say we went there because they came here. “They are a threat to us.” Obama does his Harry Belafonte impression by using that politically correct pronunciation of “Tal eee ban”.

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Update II: Jake Tapper of ABC quotes Obama saying “everything is being done” but Tapper says that is not true. Tapper cites examples of things not done – barrier island idea by Governor Jindal, tankers sent to collect oil, foreign help, etc. Tapper: How can you say everything is being done when it is not? You’re a liar OilBama! is the point of Jake Tapper.

Obama’s answer is a long-winded one which asserts “decisions were made”.

Chuck Todd has the third: The role of Allen and authority. Also – What about the Katrina comparisons?

Obama: This administration was “on top” of the crisis, Obama says regarding Katrina comparisons. “We’ve got to get it right” is the confused response to the responsibility question and why BP is not doing what should be done. Obama relies on the use of lots of “unprecedented” type arguments, “I am really concerned” types of expressions, and “we did everything right because our advice comes from the best scientists and lots of experts.” Forget that things are totally FUBAR according to your eyes, and instead “trust me”. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

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Update: Obama started off by blaming someone other than himself. Earlier in the morning, the head of the U.S. Minerals Management Service was fired – oil spigot barn door closed after the oil horses have left the well barn.

Obama closes the opening remarks with TelePrompTer expressions of concern.

The first question from Jennifer Loven was about BP or the government in control and about his own personal involvement. Obama began with the usual ‘we were on the job on day one’ rubbish. As usual the answer to “who’s running things?” Obama gave an oily answer which can be reduced to ‘the government’s in charge but BP has the expertise’.

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It will be on momentarily. We’ll comment on it soon.

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