At some stage, Ghastly Pelican No. 204, or some poor gull or fish gone stinky as well as inky (the oil smells bad, correspondents have told us, even as they brave the malodorous gunk in their dry-cleaned jeans), serves as the tipping point at which outrage and umbrage give way to a world-weary sense of futility. We've seen it before in other long-running disasters, including the trend-setting Iranian hostage crisis -- the one that started the genre and turned seldom-seen correspondent Ted Koppel into the Mr. Marathon of network anchors.
Now we're seeing it again. It gets less pretty with each new exposure, and that's about as pretty as poor little Oily McDuck. The media will grade and judge Obama according to how well he comes across, applying the standards of a performance to his gesture, as if "gesture" is all it could possibly be.
"Have we all gone crazy?" CNN's Fareed Zakaria asks in the Huffington Post, presumably rhetorically. Zakaria finds the preoccupation with "presidential emotion" to be borderline obscene and fundamentally absurd. Thousands of lives and livelihoods are threatened by an ecological nightmare-come-true, and the press wants to know whether the president is shedding real tears or the crocodile kind. It's a kind of crock, all right, and a sign that when the public starts to show lack of interest in a story, and the press goes hunting for a new angle, even hero-worshiped presidents had better watch their tails.