Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 21, 2008
POLITICS: Calm in the Storm

One of the more surreal arguments made on behalf of Obama is that he showed us something meaningful about his temperament by his handling of the credit crisis. It's certainly the case that we judge potential presidents by how they have been tested in crisis, and that we have no previous experience by which to judge how Obama handles crises other than hard times on the campaign trail. On the trail, the answer has generally been to see Obama get snippy, lash out in passive-aggressive fashion (at "bitter" Pennsylvanians, or with remarks like the "lipstick on a pig" line or similar efforts to personally provoke Hillary), duck debates and the press, and play the race card again and again and again to deflect criticism.

But the essential requirement for proving your mettle in a crisis is that you have to believe you are facing a crisis - and for Obama, the credit crisis wasn't a crisis at all. It was the best thing that happened to him all year. It was manna from heaven at a time when he was trailing in the polls, and at present it looks likely to deliver him to the White House in spite of his manifold errors and weaknesses as a candidate. As Jay Cost noted, for historical reasons there was pretty much no way the GOP could avoid taking damage from a banking crisis under any circumstances, much less while controlling the White House. Obama's main challenge was avoiding being seen visibly doing cartwheels.

Second, let's consider how Obama actually managed the crisis:

(1) Stay calm.

(2) Remain at a distance from where the crisis was being handled unless directly summoned there.

(3) Continue going about his usual daily routine.

(4) Avoid hands-on involvement in making sure things got done.

(5) Leave things uncritically in the hands of incompetent leaders in his party on the assumption that they'll call him if they need him.

In a word, exactly to the letter how Bush handled Hurricane Katrina.

This is not reassuring.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)

Now let's look at how Mr. McCain handled the same crisis.
1) Panic
2) Suspends campaign
3) Injects politics into the crisis
4) Can't figure out how he wants to handle it
5) Blames Obama for everything

That's reassuring, isn't it?

Man, I like your baseball analyses, but your screeching Republican talking points are sad.

Posted by: JB at October 21, 2008 11:19 AM

I notice the inability to defend Obama's handling, which was the subject of the post. "Injects politics into the crisis" - oh yeah, Democrats haven't politicized this, not at all. Obama hasn't attacked McCain over it, not a little bit. C'mon, let's be serious here.

I don't think McCain's reaction was good politics, and he did make some obvious mistakes, most notably the ham-handed stuff handing the SEC to Andrew Cuomo. But McCain did do what should have been done by both candidates and head to DC to twist arms in the House.

Posted by: Crank at October 21, 2008 11:27 AM

If it takes 22 hours to travel from NYC to DC how exactly did McCain hurry? Exactly which arms did he twist? From all accounts the deal was already done when both canidates showed up in DC. McCain tried to strong arm his name on a deal.
One guy stayed out of the way the other tried to get in the way. Now which is leadership?

Posted by: javaman at October 21, 2008 11:49 AM

From all accounts the deal was already done when both canidates showed up in DC

Well, clearly, not a deal that had the votes to pass, at least not under the conditions Pelosi was demanding (in terms of number of House Rs supporting it) before she'd bring it to the floor.

The vote failed, it failed when it was in Obama's political interest to fail, it failed without the support of his closest supporters even having been asked to support it.

Posted by: Crank at October 21, 2008 11:54 AM

Obama ONLY showed that, (just like ALL of his time in public office), that politically he was smart to run away from ANYTHING that could force him to take a position on something. Unfortunately for this country, if he is elected, he will NOT be able to do this any more.

And SADLY, we don't know HOW he would react since he has never had to show HOW he would react, nor are the press nor his kool-aid drinking minions concerned. He will just wave his staff and part the sea and we shall all walk across on dry land to the promised land of milk and honey provided for one and all by the great one.

Posted by: Bill at October 21, 2008 3:37 PM

Obama voted "present."

He waited for the dust to settle and then took a "noble" position.

Just like he always has done.

He is not a leader. He is an parasitic opportunist.

Posted by: drjohn at October 21, 2008 4:01 PM

I've often thought that anyone running for U.S. president should give up his or her Congressional seat to do so. After all, campaigning is a full time job (and then some) and we (the taxpayers) are paying for someone to fill that seat in Congress. However, when they choose NOT relinquish their Congressional role, then I believe they should go to Washington and participate whenever major legislation is being written.

As a taxpayer, I don't appreciate having paid Obama to spend the last two years on the campaign trail. His "they'll call me if they need me" attitude tells me everything I need to know about his readiness to lead.

Posted by: Dee at October 21, 2008 4:03 PM

Obama hasn't shown he can do ANYTHING yet. McCain did accomplish one thing for certain:

He got Reid and Pelosi to include the REPUBLICANS of the HOUSE in the negotiations. You know, in the deal that didn't INCLUDE them?

Obama is NOT the one.

Posted by: Original Pechanga at October 21, 2008 4:12 PM

McCain didn't come out looking so great in the crisis. But guess what? He F*cking TRIED to do something about an impending crisis. That's what leaders do, even if they don't always succeed. I know a democratic nominee can't acknowledge Dodd and Frank's involvement in creating the problem, but leaving them in charge of cleaning it up is beyond irresponsible.

Posted by: Buzz at October 21, 2008 4:23 PM

If I called into work and told my manager to call me if he needed me, he'd tell me not to bother returning I suspect.

If I was assigned a project and I turned back in the project by claiming hours on the contract number and saying I was present during each hour (but had no solution or result) I would most definitely be shown the door.
That aside, I think the real measure of a PotUS is what policies they will bring to the table and help get enacted. From all appearances, this country is going down the crapper with an Obama presidency and the morons (Reid and Pelosi) in the House and Senate. Although I admit that putting Frank on the commission to investigate the economic bailout was sheer genius, worthy of any 3rd world dictator. Obama should seriously consider making Dodd his Treasury Department head, that would just be icing on the cake...

Posted by: Geministorm at October 21, 2008 4:36 PM

No, the way Bush handled Hurricane Katrina was to play golf with McCain.

Posted by: Gene at October 21, 2008 5:05 PM

I thought Bush did an excellent job handling Katrina. It was the Dem governor who ran around crying on tv like a decapitated chicken.

If Obama is calm and shows grace under pressure, I think that is a big plus.

Posted by: smith at October 21, 2008 5:05 PM

heh, I love the guy who insinuates that the Crank is parroting Republican talking points.

Is it a Republican talking point that President Bush mishandled the Katrina crisis.

For the record, I don't think he did, not one iota. It is the responsibility of the local authorities, first and foremost, with the feds called in at the state's request to provide assistance. There is concrete evidence Gov. Blanco did NOT ask the feds for assistance, even when prodded to do so, and "Chocolate City"'s mayor Nagin was probably the most culpable in any failures. Sure President Bush was distant and waited until the proper time to get involved. That's the proper role for the feds. If he had gone in there willy-nilly and grabbed control he would have been criticized for that.

Locals can always do the job better than the feds. They know the ground, they (are supposed) to know the procedures for their own evacuations, relief, etc.

The way they conducted this year's evacuations shows how it should be done. And the feds were nowhere in evidence. As they should not be.

I am so sick of blaming Bush for Katrina. It's a lie.

But it establishes the Crank as at least a bi-partisan Crank.

Posted by: docweasel at October 21, 2008 5:08 PM

How about a different take? It would have been presumptuous for Senator Obama to insert himself into Banking Committee discussions.

Last time I checked, John McCain was a member of the Senate Committees on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Armed Services, and Indian Affairs. He is NOT on the Finance Committee.

It wasn’t McCain’s or Obama’s place to insert themselves into negotiations in their current roles. They weren’t needed until the vote came to the Senate floor.

Posted by: dave at October 21, 2008 5:14 PM

Look, I will repeat here what I said in other threads. The Bush Administration did a number of things right in Katrina (e.g., managing the Coast Guard and the National Guard, the actual first responders), the media told a lot of fairy tales, and significant and indeed primary blame should have gone to Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin, especially given how much better the responses have been to hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama under Republican governors. So, I do defend Bush as far as all that goes; a lot of what you hear about Katrina is unhinged hysteria disconnected from reality.

That said, (1) Bush had appointed an unqualified guy to head FEMA, (2) FEMA and its head performed badly during Katrina and (3) Bush failed dismally to project an image of active leadership in crisis, a failure that had real consequences for public confidence and was the largest single factor in wrecking his second term and the GOP.

Posted by: Crank at October 21, 2008 5:16 PM

dave - First, I guess you missed the time Obama claimed to be on the Banking Committee.

Second, the vote was in the House first...the POTUS candidates are natural leaders of their parties. Of course, their influence matters. You think Jesse Jackson Jr - national co-chair of the Obama campaign, who voted no - would not have listened if Obama had asked him to vote yes?

Posted by: Crank at October 21, 2008 5:18 PM

"project an image" my ass
the image projected is what the media says it is. 9/11 they were in the mood to say he projected a leadership image. By Katrina they were in "tear down the GOP at all costs for the mid-terms" mode, so nothing he did would have "projected" leadership. That's all crap. How would "projecting leadership" have helped a single displaced person?

FEMA was another victim of a media hit. How exactly did FEMA fail to perform? If anything, they lavished TOO MUCH federal money and were victims of fraud and abuse by supposed victims.

Personally, I feel like the feds shouldn't do ANYTHING unless the place is declared a disaster area. The state is supposed to be the first responder, not the feds.

The media has decided Obama "projected leadership" in the financial crisis and the McCain didn't exactly what you are decrying. Why do you buy their take on Bush re: Katrina?

We are in the last throes of bid media. They may pull Obama over the finish line, but the backlash when he screws up is going to be huge. It will be the death knell of the LSM.

Posted by: docweasel at October 21, 2008 5:43 PM

The people of New Orleans could have used a show of solidarity like we in NY got with the bullhorn moment, which has to rank as the best single moment of the Bush presidency.

Yes, FEMA got guilted into wasting a bunch of money with poor oversight and poor management after the fact. But there's no sugar-coating their performance. Ask Bobby Jindal, one of the few people who managed to keep his head in the whole mess:

A few days after the storm, there was a meeting of the Louisiana principals. Blanco was there, FEMA's soon-to-be-infamous Michael Brown, a handful of Congressmen, and every local political staffer worth shaking a stick at, and some not even worth that. It was supposed to start at Noon. At 12:30, it still hadn’t. People were milling around, chatting, giving quotes to reporters.

Jindal surveyed the room for a few minutes. Then he saw Blanco and the others pause to look at a television in the corner-it was footage from another press conference they’d had the previous day, broadcasting on CNN. The politicians all stood around, watching themselves on the screen.

Jindal turned to his chief of staff, and said, "Let's go."

They climbed into a Ford Excursion and took off looking for what they could do to help. They started with Harry Lee, the infamous Sheriff of Jefferson Parish.....

During Katrina, Lee commandeered local Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores, allowing them to open in spite of FEMA's request that they remain closed. When the Feds got angry, Lee responded that anyone who tried to close either store would be arrested ....

Before the storm, Michael Brown and the folks at FEMA had told Jindal that they had "resources in place" to respond to the storm, organized and ready to move in with water, food, and clothing in the event the levees broke (though no one really considered such a possibility). Now, these resources were nowhere to be found. Calls to FEMA on the Sat-phone produced nothing at first, followed by lousy excuses.

"Where are the trucks? Where are the medical supplies? Where's the food?" Jindal and his staff asked.

"Well, we don't think it's safe enough to send them in," was the reply.

An idea: why don't they give the food, the supplies, everything, to the National Guard. After all, they have guns. If crazed looters try to take the goods, the Guard can, you know, shoot them.

Such an action isn't authorized here, FEMA responded. The supplies sat where they were for days.

Seriously, read the whole thing.

Posted by: Crank at October 21, 2008 5:52 PM

Katrina has diddly-squat to do with Obama, who WILL be the next president, God willing!

Posted by: smith at October 21, 2008 6:11 PM

It seems to me that Obama basically sat back and criticized everyone else's plans or ideas and then when they had something worked out - he agreed to sign on. He refused to try and influence anyone, lest he have a position he would be required to defend. I lived in Illinois for 9 years and that's what he did as a senator - let everyone else do the work and then put his name on it.

When asked about what he did to avert the crisis, he said "I wrote a letter." Wow - and I thought we elected Senators to write legislation.

Posted by: PoliticsCount at October 21, 2008 6:26 PM

I'm unconvinced because I don't think the feds should have a bit of responsibility for bailing out incompetent locals. Blanco and Nagin are the culprits, not FEMA, I don't care what this story says. Why some blog is the last word on Katrina is beyond me.

Judging from the reaction to your pontificating on Bush and Obama, you'd best stick to baseball. Your main point is contradictory, you fault Bush for not "appearing" to project leadership, which is a media construct, while decrying Obama's elevation to statesman by the media with a false narrative that he "acted presidential" during the crisis.

Both assessments are bullshit. Bad analogy, Fannie Mae crisis to Katrina. The only relation is that the media distorted both events to favor democrats and hurt the GOP. Congrats for decrying one while buying into the other.

Rays in 6

Posted by: docweasel at October 21, 2008 6:27 PM

I am a republican and I didn't care how either one of them reacted to the credit crisis.....McCain suspended his campaign seemed gimicky to me...but then again, picking Palin as his VP seemed gimicky to me too. But Obama not addressing the issue seems to be his mantra! Just because Obama is intelligent and has an amazing personality doesn't make him prepared to run our country. His lefty illuminati politicians in DC think they've found some puppet to do their dirty work and the American people are falling for it.

Posted by: mnotaro at October 22, 2008 11:54 AM

What exactly did he handle? The crisis was not handled by him, he didn't even care to go back and address it like McCain had. The Ivy-League illuminati just give out promises, but have yet to handle anything.

Posted by: Expressions at October 29, 2008 7:23 PM

Obama hid, McCain engaged. It's as simple as that.

It's a style thing, you know.

One guy hides under a table, the other guy moves to where the trouble is at.

I wonder how the two might act when the Israeli bombs hit Iran in December, 2 million soldiers mobilize in the Middle East, and Russia begins rattling it's nukes.

I know I'll feel really really good about the leader of my country hiding under that table, particularly considering his staunch support for Israel. Maybe I'll just mentally count my $500 "tax cut" if my family gets nervous.

Posted by: notafool at October 30, 2008 7:53 PM

Ahh, you said it...I love it. My fav dissection: just like Bush handled Katrina. ROFLMAO Just perfect!

Posted by: mcnorman at October 30, 2008 8:38 PM

Bush's administration did not do Katrina well but it did do a lot of things right, too. It needs to be remembered that it was not the first storm of the year, however, it was the first major disaster of it's kind. Much of the road access to the city was underwater and blocked by debri. The bridge over Lake Pochitrain was broken and helicopters were involved in real rescues of people rather than flying in supplies. Resources were delayed due to these problems more than incompetence of the FEMA crew. Incompetence was most diplayed by the state and local leaders before the storm. When the city had 100s of school busses at their disposal why did they not collect the people and drive them out of harms way during the time leading up to the crisis instead of waiting till too late and seeing people stranded and busses flooded out?

Posted by: snuffy at October 31, 2008 3:32 AM
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