President Barack Obama is being crucified in the U.S. for his apparent lack of emotion over the BP oil disaster.
Obama said yesterday he is "furious" about the spill but that "venting and yelling" isn’t what is needed from him at the moment.
He’s probably right. Citizens should all hope for their leaders to show calm, level headed coolness in the face of major obstacles. Long term that is what gets the best decisions made. Reactionary, pandering responses can be truly detrimental to the public good.
Unfortunately, citizens also want to see that their leaders aren’t just talking, they are feeling.
The images of the oil spill are gut wrenching. The affect on the environment is jaw dropping. The loss of livelihoods and the impact on the Louisiana economy already suffering from repeated hurricane batterings, makes one’s stomach churn with a mix of anger, sympathy and sadness.
Americans are mad and they want to see that their president feels the same way.
In 2001, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, president George W. Bush reacted the way most Americans were feeling. He was angry. He was sad. And he was hell bent on revenge.
"Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly attacks," he said, within hours of the tragedy.
Days after the attacks he stood on the piles of wreckage from the World Trade Centre and he made sure the Americans knew he felt their pain.
"Well I can hear you. The whole world can hear you. And the people who brought these buildings down will hear from all of us real soon."
It was an over-the-top reaction which was as much made-in-Hollywood as it was in Washington. But at the time, it’s what people wanted and needed.
And his approval ratings soared. Ten days after 9-11, Bush’s approval rating hit 90 per cent. Extremely telling, considering he left office seven years later with approval ratings somewhere around 25 per cent, and will go down in U.S. history as one of the most disliked presidents ever.
I remember at the time thinking had Al Gore won the 2000 election, he never would have responded to 9-11 the same way as Bush did because it isn’t in his make-up.
The Bush response is what Americans want from Obama at the moment and they aren’t getting it. It’s not in his make-up either.