Over at the Daily Beast, Tunku Varadarajan says that the oil spill isn’t Obama’s fault…but his portrayal of socialist Jesus is helping make sure that it’s seen as his fault.
Once you set out, as a president or a party, to propagate a message that the government has (or is) the panacea for all ills, then failure to deal with an ill leads to your being hoist with your own panacea-petard. If the entire range of your political program rests on the message that the government is the problem-solver, the deliverer from evil, the Messiah, the curative current that runs through our civitas, then a failure to solve a problem, to deliver from evil—or from an evil oil spill—leads to consternation, bafflement, and profound disillusion in the ranks of the faithful.
Actually, the thing that’s lumping responsibility onto Obama isn’t the belief that government can solve all ills; it’s his embrace of offshore drilling and his sorta but not quite “moratorium” on drilling. Yes, there are some people who think Obama should rush in and…do…something? Use his supernatural powers over black gold, maybe? The problem isn’t a belief that the regulatory state can solve all ills and it hasn’t; the problem is that the actual role the regulatory state has is being approached in a half-hearted manner.
There’s also the nontrivial matter of what happens going forward: it’s almost certain that there will be massive legislative and judicial fights over BP’s liability, and the same people who’ve spent years saying that legitimate, undeniable corporate malfeasance has to be balanced against all the shiny things corporations make will pile on Obama, saying simultaneously that he has to crack down, but in a way that still sends a positive message to the oil industry, but in a way that punishes BP, but in a way that takes into account their efforts, but in a way that…
Obama’s main problem is not big government versus small government or statism versus corporatism, it’s his political willingness to stay in yet another fight with the same political opposition that will fight anything he does.