Despite the oil spill, Obama wants Americans to vacation on the Gulf Coast. So, will he?
For some strange reason, governors and tourism operators on the Gulf Coast believe that after nearly two solid video months of an exploding, burning and sinking offshore oil rig, mixed with smudgy scenes of crude oil escaping into the ocean from millions of years of subterranean imprisonment and a shiny sheen spreading for countless square miles on the sea surface, some Americans might rethink their vacation plans to go down there.
Gee, who wouldn't want to go to the Deep South home of humidity in July and August anyway?
President Obama, like fellow Democratic President Carter during the long Iranian hostage crisis that plagued his first and last White House term, can't actually do anything about the terrible situation except throw tough words at the culprits and offer sympathetic words for its victims.
Whether we like them or not, Americans want their presidents to be in charge, to appear like a....
...confident father in a time of crisis. Helplessness doesn't look good on Oval Office occupants. Ronald Reagan pulled it off in 1986 when the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch by seeming as devastated and numb as everyone else and reciting evocative poetry.
When the U.S. container ship Mayaguez was seized by Cambodia's radical Khmer Rouge forces in 1975, Gerald Ford decisively launched a rescue mission that didn't rescue anybody and cost the lives of several Marines. He lost the next election.
To show his determination, Carter launched a briefly secret, hapless hostage rescue effort with U.S. helicopters crashing into each other in the Iranian desert. He lost the next election.
Helplessness is a particular challenge for someone like Obama, who prides himself on that kind of cool, controlled detachment that can so easily be seen as, well, detachment and down-the-nose, arugula arrogance -- mixed with a certain Cinco de Cuatro ignorance of real American life.
For all its skilled fundraising and political acumen in recent years, Obama's Chicago crowd was very slow to catch the drift of this oily gulf gumbo.
It took him much longer to get down to the scene of the country's worst environmental disaster than it did to fly to Massachusetts and not really help Martha Coakley's losing Senate campaign last winter.
And it took until late Thursday night for this administration to realize that it can't have even the Real Good Talker giving toasts and touring Indonesia and Australia later this month, while the black goop continues to foul the gulf and several states. So that Asia trip was re-canceled.
The White House has turned up the flow of news releases and conference calls and Cabinet visits since the second week of the spill, which now seems like too tiny a word. Last week the president interrupted his Chicago vacation to witness the mess firsthand for a whole two hours.
Today after celebrating new jobs and then hosting some champion soccer players in the White House, Obama will make his third brief visit to Louisiana to be, well, briefed and seen being concerned.
Yes, the coastal governors mostly belong to the party of Abraham You-Know-Who. But these leaders need each other at a time like this. At his news conference last week, Obama honored their gubernatorial requests, saying:
I should also say that Americans can help by continuing to visit the communities and beaches of the Gulf Coast. I was talking to the governors just a couple of days ago, and they wanted me to remind everybody that except for three beaches in Louisiana, all of the gulf’s beaches are open. They are safe and they are clean.
The Obamas love beachfront living, whether it's a fancy rental on Hawaii or Martha's Vineyard. So, how about as a presidential example, Obama takes his own advice and hauls the entire family off to Mississippi or Louisiana this summer? Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about that Thursday.
"I have not been involved in their August plans," said the Alabaman, who's involved in all their plans. "I don't know the answer to that."
In other words, don't pack the mask and flippers just yet.
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Photos: President Obama looks at Louisiana sand. Credit: Associated Press; Helmetless president bikes on Martha's Vineyard in 2009, Credit: Alex Brandon / Associated Press; A Kindle on the beach. Credit: CDZ.