Forget Katrina: Is BP Obama's Waterloo?

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 2, 2010; 8:26 AM

We have seen this movie before.

Barack Obama stays cool when the pundits want heat.

He's 30 points down and he isn't hitting Hillary hard enough.

He's not returning fire against McCain's attack ads.

He isn't leading the charge on health care, delegating the battle to his Hill allies instead.

Each time, Obama somehow prevailed. He got himself elected, and against all odds he passed the gargantuan health care bill.

But there has been a growing disconnect. I'm among those who believe that passion is often missing from his presidency.

No one doubts that the guy is whip smart, works incredibly hard and tries to master the policies he pushes. But he often lacks that visceral appeal. When he said he was mad at Wall Street bonuses or AIG, it felt like he was reading someone else's words.

Now, with BP, he has really fallen short.

I don't buy the notion that there was far more he could have done substantively. The federal government doesn't have the expertise or equipment to do what a deep-sea oil drilling company does (though it could hardly have done worse than the utterly clueless British Petroleum).

But in terms of the optics, the politics, the sense of outrage, well, no wonder James Carville was angry. The White House just bungled that part.

Last week's presser was an attempt to catch up, to seize control, at least in terms of public perception. Watching Obama, I thought, here's a guy who really understands this stuff. But he was flat and technocratic, at least until he invoked his daughter, which for me missed the mark.

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