President Obama is trying to fight off criticism that the BP oil spill is his Hurricane Katrina. Can’t blame him. Katrina cemented a perception that the Bush administration wasn’t prepared for the storm and subsequent flooding and lacked urgency and competence in dealing with the aftermath. Now Obama is hearing some of the same gripes about the federal management/response to the Gulf spill, which must be especially galling for a true believer in big government. That’s why Obama is working hard to look like he’s working hard. Not criticism, just fact. Because really, what the heck’s the president going to do to fix the problem? Take a turn at the controls of a submersible and cap the well himself? About all he can do is look busy, look and sound concerned, even angry — because Americans are angry. Obama’s core personality traits, calm and cool, won’t work on this one. It’s probably why the president used some salty language this week, to convey emotional engagement on the spill. Obama told NBC’s “Today” show he’s been talking to Gulf fishermen and other experts, not for academic purposes, but “so I know who’s ass to kick.” Of course, tough talk only works if some butts actually get kicked. So which ones are available for booting? Obama can’t kick any rear ends at BP. He can only kick the tushies of people who work for him. The head of the Minerals Management Service already has taken one for Obama Team, but that’s probably not enough. Just guessing, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar might want to keep one eye on the rear-view mirror. It wouldn’t be personal, just (political) business.
Veteran journalist Helen Thomas abruptly retired Monday after treading into some deep doo-doo with recent remarks in which she said Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine.” Thomas, 89, a fixture in the White House briefing room for decades, apologized on her Web site on Friday but still faced fallout as the new week began. Her employer, Hearst Newspapers, announced her retirement soon after the White House called the Israel/Palestine remarks “indefensible.” Before the announcement the board of the White House Correspondents Association reportedly was considering action, and Thomas was dropped as commencement speaker at a suburban Washington high school. Thomas was a pioneer for women in journalism, working for UPI for 57 years before joining Hearst in 2000 as a columnist. During the Bush administration her liberal leanings increasingly showed in edgy questions put to the president and his representatives. National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg writes Thomas’ comments weren’t surprising. “Can we do away with all of the shock and dismay at Thomas’ statement?” Goldberg wrote. “Everyone knows she is a nasty piece of work and has been a nasty piece of work for decades.” Nasty no more.
Not much to cheer about in the May job report, unless you’re a fan of the Census Bureau. The government says 431,000 jobs were added last month, the best surge since March 2000, and unemployment fell to 9.7 percent. But virtually all of the job creation came from the hiring of more than 400,000 temporary workers to help with the census. Those jobs will disappear later this year after the counting is done. Private-sector growth was far below the 218,000 jobs added in April, and experts said the lower unemployment rate was less about an expanding labor force than about people giving up looking for work. Not great news for President Obama, who nonetheless said the job picture is brightening but warned “there will be ups and downs.”
Talk about the perfect confluence of liberal politics and show biz: Paul McCartney serenading first lady Michelle Obama in the East Room of the White House this week. Sir Paul, 67, came to pick up his Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and couldn’t resist some “Michelle, my belle,” just for Mrs. Obama. It wouldn’t have been the aforementioned nexus of pop and political glitz without a gratuitous jab at former President Bush. Thanking the award sponsor (Library of Congress), McCartney got off this riff: “After the last eight years, it’s good to have a president that knows what a library is.” Hahahahahahahahahahahah! Now that’s a good one — just the kind of yuk liberals entertain themselves with at the expense of someone who got his bachelor’s at Yale, his MBA at Harvard Business School and who married a librarian.
Ding! Ding! Ding! We’ve got a winner for the silly photo of the day: Shirt-sleeved Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid trying to keep up with first lady Michelle Obama and a bunch of kids exercising at Nevada’s Red Rock National Conservation Area on Tuesday. Reid, who’s up for re-election this year, no doubt figured a photo op with Mrs. Obama, children and the outdoors would help tamp down any sense he’s a Washington fuddy-duddy. Unfortunately, the days when the former prize fighter could do a real deep knee-bend are well behind him. It’s not quite Michael Dukakis wearing the hu-u-u-uge Army tank helmet, but it’s close — Reid, the old pol, clearly out of his natural element. The only thing more out of place would’ve been Reid with one of those safety harnesses strapped over his dress slacks, making like Spiderman on the big boulder in the background.
The thing that makes the announced separation of Al and Tipper Gore more than just the impending breakup of another high-profile couple is the role their marriage played in Gore’s near-ascension to the White House in 2000. Even more than a marriage, the Gores had a romance. It softened his stiff, cardboard-like persona and presented them as a breath of fresh air after the storminess that often surrounded Bill and Hillary Clinton. An enduring image from the Gore 2000 campaign has to be Al and Tipper, on the nominating convention stage in Los Angeles, in an extended embrace and kiss that genuinely plucked heartstrings everywhere. A sense that the Gores had a loving, stable marriage wasn’t the only reason Gore got more raw votes than George W. Bush, but it was an important one, especially in the context of the preceding era. All marriages undergo stress, and perhaps the amazing thing about Al and Tipper Gore’s marriage is that it lasted 40 years despite the pressures of politics, travel, constant scrutiny and more. In a statement they said their decision to separate was mutual and “followed a process of long and careful consideration.” They asked for and are entitled to privacy, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll get it.