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With Enemies Like These…

Don Rose 21 June 2010 No Comment

In the deadly game of politics your enemies often do you more good than your friends. No one understands this better than Barack Obama.

A week or two ago Obama appeared to be drowning in the oil-soiled waters of Gulf of Mexico. Today he is the beneficiary of unintended largesse from a string of gaffe-prone Republican candidates and office-holders who, one way or another, appear to be siding with BP against him. Poor, beleaguered BP.

With Obama’s stock apparently on the upswing, one cannot overlook the contributions of the best enemy of them all, BP’s tone-deaf CEO Tony “Wayward” Hayward, who is the gift that keeps on gaffing. I expect we’ll soon see little booklets collecting all of Hayward’s reverse public-relations gestures, much like those that gathered George W. Bush’s multiplicity of verbal mishaps every year.

Last week marked what some of the White House gang like to call an inflection point—a turnaround in the president’s long slide in popularity. Starting with a universally disdained speech from the Oval Office, he moved quickly to demonstrate command and control over the political flack from his handling of the gulf tragedy by forcing BP to cough up a minimum of $20 billion to begin compensating victims of the oil spill.

Please note here the perfect pitch of Obama’s language—which some fools questioned. Before meeting with BP bigwigs he said he would “instruct” the oil company to come up with the cash. He did not say “order,” because he could not legally issue such an order; he did not say “request” because that would appear to make the president a supplicant before the corporation.

Needless to say, BP’s executives followed his instructions and tried to seem glad to be doing so. Plus they agreed to withhold further dividends for the year, possibly the ultimate act of corporate contrition.

Is there any question now that Obama is in charge?

Is there any serious question in the public mind that this is a good and great thing he has done?

Well, there may not be any question from the public at large, but look at the fire he has drawn from the wing-nut right—especially from the damn fool congressman who first apologized to the BPsters for Obama’s “shakedown,” then was ordered by his party leaders to recant the apology.

Even those conservatives in congress who may philosophically believe Obama acted improperly recognize he is on the right side of public opinion—by an overwhelming majority. But this will not shut up the Rand Pauls and Sharron Angles or the prattling talk hosts who seem to be the real movers of the Republican Party.

Another stroke of genius on the part of the resurgent White House was to name Ken Feinberg as administrator of the BP funds. Feinberg was universally applauded for his work in administering compensation to victims of the 9/11 attack. This suggests not only would there be fairness and equity, but that Obama put the gulf tragedy on a par with 9/11.

Further good news for Obama also came in a little-noticed poll showing the highest level of support for his health-care package since last September, well before it even became law.

A small majority of 45 percent to 42 percent now favors the law, apparently because several of its immediate benefits seem to have penetrated the public consciousness according to a new AP-GfK poll. Among the selling points, according to the Associated Press, were coverage for young adults up to age 26 on their parents’ insurance plans, rebates for Medicare patients with high prescription drug costs, tax credits to small businesses for employee insurance programs and federal funds to train more doctors and nurses.

The poll results appear to be the first tangible dividends of the administration’s new, high-powered campaign to sell the health-care law. There is every good chance that support will continue to grow as more and more word gets out.

That, coupled with the possibility of better numbers for the president as a result of his BP triumph, the November elections may not be a total catastrophe for the Democrats. If they ever plug that damned leak, that is.


Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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