The Obama Administration apparently thinks that tough talk can make up for ineffectiveness. It can’t. Of course BP should be held responsible for the disaster in the Gulf, but threats about keeping the “boot on their throat” hardly helps stop the leak. Obviously, it is in BP’s interest to plug the leak as quickly as they can-they hardly need to have the White House leaning on them to get that they need to be acting as expeditiously as possible.
It was unseemly to have the President’s spokesman sound like a thug threatening a private company, but it’s even worse when the President joins in personally. Here’s the quote from the President being featured on Drudge: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar, we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”
What does the President mean exactly when he says he is going to kick someone’s ass?
BP already faces legal action, which is appropriate and necessary. The oil industry also faces more regulation, which may also be an appropriate policy response. We want BP to pay for the clean up to the extent possible. The financial institutions that got bailouts should have to pay back taxpayers.
But the American people wants to know that their elected leaders are trying to shape policies that make sense and that are forward-looking. They want leaders to be focused on preventing future disasters, whether it’s the financial system’s meltdown or the BP oil spill. Policy shouldn’t be trying to exacting revenge.
It’s also just unseemly for the President to be using language like “ass to kick.” No one is perfect and everyone has said things that they wouldn’t want splashed into the headlines. But the President was giving an interview. This wasn’t an off-hand comment or a mistakenly open mike. He shouldn’t be publicly using phrases that the parents of elementary school kids are trying to get their kids not to use.
The use of this kind of language from public officials-the President, especially, who is supposed to be the ultimate role model-coarsens our culture. What’s almost worse is that it seems obvious that one of the President’s handlers told him that he is suffering from a perception that he isn’t acting tough and that’s why he used that phrase. They are so limited that they think that using bad language and make threats will change the public’s perceptions of very real problems.
This wasn’t a show of toughness. It was just crass and ineffective. The American people deserve better.