(John Moore/Getty Images)
A new media narrative has developed, that President Obama doesn’t “get it” when it comes to understanding and sharing the outrage of the American people. The story first started with the public outcry over the AIG bonuses, continued through the shock of the Christmas Day underwear bomber, and now has grown with the horror at the scale of the devastation caused by the BP oil leak. His cerebral, “No Drama Obama” style of leadership is playing against him publicly in the short term—in poll after poll, his approval ratings are dropping—and in the long term, it’s feeding a larger sense among Americans that government at all levels is failing them.
“We’re incompetent,” Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn said recently, referring to the public’s perception of Congress. But what’s going on is bigger than Congress or even the federal government. As Americans see failing schools, a lack of border security, continuing crises in the financial markets, and two wars that have dragged on for years, it’s easy to see why voters are so disillusioned. The worst oil leak in American history has slowly become a metaphor for everything wrong with government.
That’s why Obama needs to “pivot,” as political consultants say, and reverse the narrative. Here are five ways the president could take control of the BP story.