AP Throws Pity Party for Overwhelmed Obama: Oil Spill Just One 'Priority'

May 30th, 2010 1:54 PM

On Saturday, the Associated Press informed its readers that President Obama cannot be expected to focus all of his attention on the Gulf Coast oil spill.

The reason? Presidents have to juggle a number of pressing issues at a time, and what with America being in a recession, Obama simply can't afford to give sole focus to this disaster.

Too bad the AP wasn't so understanding in 2005 when President Bush was perceived as being detached from the suffering in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Back then, the wire service was quick to mention vacation plans and peddle accusations of the federal government not caring about the poor.

But what a difference with a Democrat in the White House: as BP's efforts to plug the leak continue to fail, there is increasing danger of Americans putting partial blame on an ineffective government - and we just can't have that.

The AP's Ben Feller helpfully published a reminder that there's more going on in the world than oil pumping into the water in the Gulf:

President Barack Obama keeps reassuring the nation that stopping the Gulf oil spill and limiting the fallout on the region are his top priority.

Yet so is protecting the country against attack. And getting people back to work.

Presidencies usually don't allow for a dominant priority - just a list of priorities.

During another hectic week, Obama made this promise: "This entire White House and this entire federal government has been singularly focused on how do we stop the leak and how do we prevent and mitigate the damage to our coastlines."

From the Gulf Coast on Friday, he said making the people and the ecosystems whole again "is our highest priority." It was not just a policy statement but a communications imperative.

Obama had to show that he's in charge of making it end. BP bears responsibility for the crisis. Obama now owns it. BP's latest effort to stop the flow by plugging the well with mud and cement was determined Saturday to have failed.

Yet what's next for the president will not be a single focus on the Gulf. His agenda ahead will be what it was: a juggle of priorities. Others will not wait while oil washes ashore in Louisiana.

Suddenly after years of ignoring the constant threat of terror, it dawned on the AP that keeping America safe is kind of a full time job.

And that wasn't it! Feller then laid out a list of all the other things weighing on the president's mind:

_The Koreas could be edging to war. The South accuses the North of sinking one of its warships.

_Israel's prime minister visits the White House on Tuesday as Obama presses peace talks with the Palestinians.

_The terror threat isn't going away, as seen by the failed car bombing in New York City this month.

_A international standoff with Iran over its nuclear program is hardening.

_The economic recovery doesn't feel like much of one to the millions who are jobless.

_A sweeping overhaul of financial regulation hangs in the balance. The White House hopes Congress can finish it by July.

_The president needs GOP support of two big initiatives, energy and immigration, but has little to show so far.

_Senators begin hearings in late June on his nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan.

_Fall elections are nearing, with Democrats facing losses and in need of campaign help from Obama.

Politics never stop, of course.

Obama is concerned with swaying Republicans to vote for finance reform, the election in November, and a diplomat visiting the White House next week - so obviously those things are important enough to distract the president from the worst oil spill in America's history.

Oh, and there's also this pesky detail of allegations that the White House offered a job as a bribe to a Congressman. Feller mentioned it as another distraction while downplaying its serious nature:

Just as Obama finished his Gulf tour Friday, the White House found itself off balance because of an embarrassing admission: It had proposed a political deal, in the form of unpaid job offer, to Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., to get him to back off from his primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa. Sestak said no, stayed in the race and beat Specter.

Feller then offered this amazing gem in the middle of a quote from President Obama:

"One of the things you learn as president is because you've got this title, and you know, there's the plane and the helicopter and all that stuff, that people expect you to solve problems," Obama said Tuesday at a political fundraiser, yet another part of his job. "And when things go wrong, they're definitely going to blame you. If things go right, occasionally you might get the credit."

You read that right, folks. President Obama took time on Tuesday to attend a campaign fundraiser for Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Feller calmly said this was just another part of his job.

If raising cash for a fellow Democrat is not more important than attending to the worst oil spill in American history, what is?

With this in mind, I decided to browse the AP's archives to see if such leniency was offered to President George Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Back in those days, the president was harshly criticized for taking time off during a national disaster.

On September 7 of that year, the AP ran a report that was quick to repeat partisan accusations against President Bush:

Congress' top two Democrats furiously criticized the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina on Wednesday, with Sen. Harry Reid demanding to know whether President Bush's Texas vacation impeded relief efforts and Rep. Nancy Pelosi assailing the chief executive as "oblivious, in denial" about the difficulties.

That article went on for over 900 words, at no point mentioning how many other things were going on. America still needed to be protected from a terror attack. The "international standoff with Iran" was a problem then. The war in Iraq was turning downward, and operations in Afghanistan were dealing with a Taliban insurgency. And curiously enough, that was the same time Supreme Court Justice John Roberts was preparing for his Senate hearings.

Yet even with a strikingly similar list of concerns, President Bush was given no sympathy. Five days later, the AP was at it again, this time advancing accusations of racism:

Many people, particularly in the black community, have suggested that one reason for the slow response was that most of the storm victims, especially in New Orleans, were poor and black and that the administration doesn't care about them. The president said that wasn't so.

Yet when it comes to protecting a liberal politician, the AP is all about looking for the bright side. After explaining all the things President Obama had to deal with, Feller then offered this:

Obama's ability to calmly handle many competing issues simultaneously is viewed as one of his strengths.

So you see, not only is President Obama busy juggling a million things, we shouldn't worry too much because multitasking is one of his strong suits.

For the record, oil has been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico for more than 40 days, and the cost for the cleanup alone has already reached $1 billion.

But don't worry - your President has been hard at work campaigning for Democrats in California, and according to the AP, that's okay.