Monthly Archives: June 2010

Do This! Do That! And Nothing Will Happen…Why Obama Should Not Have Given Tuesday’s Speech

President Obama made his first prime-time Oval Office address last Tuesday, to decidedly mixed reviews. Some of his most usually stalwart defenders, like Keith Olbermann and Chris (“My Leg Isn’t Tingling”) Matthews this time were not impressed.  For the most part, these critics wanted Obama to be more decisive and to convey a greater sense of command.  Some also wished that he came down harder on BP.

I share their concerns about the speech – but for different reasons.  This was Obama’s first nationwide address from the Oval Office.  On average, as indicated in this table from the American Presidency research project, presidents dating back to Coolidge make about 4 “major” addresses a year.

President total in term yearly average average monthly interval between speeches
Coolidge 25 5.0 2.4
Hoover 7 1.8 6.1
Roosevelt I 12 3.0 4.0
Roosevelt II 13 3.3 3.7
Roosevelt III 19 4.8 2.5
Roosevelt IV 1
Truman I 17 3.4 2.8
Truman II 15 3.8 3.2
Eisenhower I 21 5.3 2.3
Eisenhower II 20 5.0 2.5
Kennedy 15 5.0 2.3
Johnson 23 4.6 2.7
Nixon I 23 5.8 2.1
Nixon II 13 8.1 1.5
Ford 12 5.2 2.4
Carter 17 4.3 2.8
Reagan I 20 5.0 2.4
Reagan II 27 6.8 1.8
Bush 17 4.3 2.8
Clinton I 14 3.5 3.4

These numbers (which are based in part on research by Lyn Ragsdale) include the State of the Union and Inaugural addresses, so the average number of nationwide addresses originating from the Oval Office is fewer.  In short, a speech from the Oval Office historically signifies an historically important occasion.  As such, presidents typically use these addresses to make major policy pronouncements (Nixon announcing the invasion of Cambodia, for example), or to react to major events, such as Reagan’s speech in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster.

The setting makes a difference in another way as well.  In a State of the Union speech or Inaugural Address, the President becomes part of a larger historical tapestry woven from the words and actions of his predecessors dating back to Washington.  That’s why certain themes – continuity, renewal, America as a beacon of hope and land of liberty – regularly occur in these events. These ceremonial speeches are as much about the country and its traditions as it is about the individual President.

In contrast, an Oval Office speech is a more intimate affair.  Presidents come into your living room to talk directly with you.  They can’t hide behind ceremony or tradition, and there is no immediate audience on which to play off. Some presidents – Ronald Reagan comes to mind – were generally superb in this setting.  Franklin Roosevelt, in his celebrated radio addresses, also excelled. What they succeeded in doing was conveying the sense that they were talking to you, and not simply addressing the nation.  It is not an easy task, and I thought Obama fell short of the mark on Tuesday. Although his words sought to convey a sense of urgency and decisiveness, his demeanor did not.  In my view, he appeared uncomfortably detached; he read the words, but did not convey the sense of passion or command the words were meant to elicit.

Part of the reason for this disconnect, I think, is because the speech lacked the proper substance, given the significance of the setting. Nothing had occurred in the oil spill that warranted an Oval Office speech now; oil continues to gush into the Gulf with no signs that anyone – including the Obama administration – is any closer to a solution.  Using your first Oval Office address to announce the appointment of a presidential commission, to promise that BP would cover the cleanup costs, and to remind us that we cannot continue to rely on drilling our way to energy self-sufficiency (you think?) seems decidedly anticlimactic.  Far better, I think, for Obama to have waited until the hole was plugged to appear on television. He could then have used that positive event as a springboard for pushing a new energy policy.  As it was, his speech merely reinforced the public impression that he has no immediate plan to plug the leak.  Words without action convey an impression of impotence – not command.

Why, then, did Obama decide to give this speech at this time, in this setting?  Because he feels compelled to demonstrate that he’s doing something about the spill. All presidents feel the weight of unrealistic expectations to do something about events over which they have very little control.  They take office expecting to lead, only to find that on most major events they possess very little means of doing so.  The sentiment is famously captured in Harry Truman’s remarks (as conveyed by Richard Neustadt) in anticipation of Dwight Eisenhower becoming president: “He’ll sit here and he’ll say, ‘Do this!  Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike. It won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.”

Obama may lack misconceptions of his authority rooted in military service, but no doubt he is frustrated.  All presidents are, sooner or later.  Indeed, the major gaffes in most presidencies derive from this frustration – think Johnson and the decision to escalate the U.S. presence in Vietnam, Nixon and national security leaks, or Reagan and the Iran-contra affair. But these incidents provide an important lesson – one that is difficult for presidents and their advisers to accept: often the best presidential decision is to recognize when to do nothing.

It is understandable in this hothouse media-driven context that presidents feel compelled to take steps to reframe a negative news narrative in a more positive light.  In truth, however – despite what the talking heads may say – there is no compelling evidence that the oil spill is significantly undercutting Obama’s public support; his approval ratings have dropped perhaps 1-3% since the April explosion.  And even if it is, it is not clear that making speeches that simply highlight his inability to solve the root problem is the proper response.  It is often hard for presidents, sitting in the White House bubble, to see beyond the nightly news commentary emanating from the chattering class.  It may be harder for this president, who ostensibly gained office in part on his ability to use speeches to frame the news narrative, to recognize that rhetoric not supported by reality doesn’t convey leadership.

My advice?  Sit tight. Be patient.  Don’t try to substitute the perception of command for the reality.   Instead, trust the people to recognize the limits on presidential power and to respond accordingly.

I am Woman, See Me Wink: Assessing Tuesday’s Election Results

What, if anything, should we conclude from the results of the last major set of elections before the November midterms?  The Main Stream Media (MSM) and several blogs have apparently decided to interpret the results through the gender frame (see here and here and here), by highlighting women winning Senate primaries in California and Arkansas, and gubernatorial primaries in California and South Carolina.

I can understand why that frame is being used, but I see no evidence that any of these women won because of their gender.  Instead, their victories were driven by the usual suspects: good financial backing, weak opponents, and being on the right side of the issues.  But if we are determined to look at the results through the gender prism, then I suggest a big winner – at least in terms of perceptions – is everyone’s favorite Moosemeister Sarah Palin. Alaska’s finest took a gamble by personally campaigning for Tea Party candidate Nikki Haley in South Carolina’s gubernatorial race, and stuck by her when the dirt started to fly.  Palin also broke with the Tea Party to back Carly Fiorina in California’s Republican primary – another winner.  And Palin’s candidate in the Iowa governor’s Republican primary, Terry Branstad, also won (beating the Tea Party candidate), although that was a less risky bet on her part.   Palin’s lone loss was her backing of Cecil Bledsoe for a House seat in Arkansas.

By my unofficial count, Palin has now endorsed or given money to six gubernatorial candidates (including Haley and Rick Perry in Texas), 13 U.S. Senate candidates (including Fiorina and Rand Paul in Kentucky and Rob Portman in Ohio), and 11 U.S. House candidates.  Her governors picks have all won, as have several of her most publicized Senate picks.  However, her candidate in Pennsylvania’s special election to replace John Murtha lost.  We shouldn’t overplay the substantive impact of these endorsements.  For now I’m more interested in the media perception they create as Palin continues to flirt with running for the Presidency in 2012.  Like her or not, she continues to be a player, despite the predictions that her career was over when she resigned as Alaska’s governor.

But what did the results tell us regarding my two themes: anti-incumbency and the strength of the Tea Party movement?  In the most highly publicized (and thus not necessarily representative) sample of races, incumbents challenged from the Right did more poorly than those challenged on the Left.  Most notably, netroot progressives are lamenting Bill Halter’s defeat by the more moderate Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas.  Halter lost a close race despite being ahead in the last polls (but these were Research2000/Daily Kos polls so…) and despite strong financial support and backing from the, and from labor unions.  What is perhaps most interesting in perusing the progressive blogs is their oft-stated claim that Halter had a much better shot at winning the Senate seat against Republican John Boozman in November.  Their argument?: Voters want a real choice. At the same time, however, these same progressives insist that Republicans blew it by nominating Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle to take on Harry Reid in Nevada’s Senate race, because the public is likely to shy away from her more ideologically extreme views.  This may be true, but the contradiction in political reasoning underlying these claims is a reminder that many of the most popular sites in the blogosphere are not necessarily the place to go for unbiased political analysis.

More generally, when we assess the strength of the anti-incumbency fervor, we need to remember that even in “wave” election years more than 75% of Senators and up to 90% of House incumbents typically still win reelection.  The angry mob doesn’t throw everybody out.  Note that Lincoln won her race with about 15% turnout – almost half of the 30% that turned out in May.  So we shouldn’t read too much into these results in terms of representing general sentiment.

As for the Tea Party, in the high profile races that I focused on two nights ago, the Tea Party candidates – Angle, Nikki Haley, and Trey Gowdy – all did well. Angle received over $500,000 in Tea Party money and despite the netroots claims that she can’t beat Harry Reid, current polling has them in a dead heat.  In this environment, I’m not ready to bet against her.  Haley, just missed avoiding a runoff for the Republican gubernatorial primary, but she will almost certainly win the nomination in the next round of voting (June 22 I believe). Gowdy finished 12% ahead of the incumbent Republican Inglis in South Carolina’s 4rth district, although they also will have a rematch. If Inglis loses in the runoff, he will be the second House incumbent to lose his seat in this election cycle.   And a Tea Party candidate won the vacated Representatives seat in Georgia and will now serve in Congress.

But the Tea Party-backed candidate Chuck DeVore lost in the California Republican Senate primary and they lost down ticket races for the House there as well, so it wasn’t a clean sweep for them either.  Keep in mind that the Tea Party influence is likely to be strongest in low-turnout primaries, since more moderates voters tend not to participate in these.   So we shouldn’t overreact to the Tea Party’s success.   On the other hand, it’s clear that they are more than a “media” creation, despite E.J. Dionne’s claims to the contrary.

On the whole, I don’t see much that happened Tuesday that leads me to believe we saw any shift in electoral dynamics from what I’ve previously described.  The Tea Party is a force, but not an overwhelming one; incumbents are vulnerable in this national climate of voter anxiety, but that vulnerability will vary depending on local circumstances, and Sarah Palin is still confounding critics.

Election Night Results

7:17  I won’t be live blogging continuously tonight (Celtics are playing, after all) but I’ll try to post fairly often as results come in.  Feel free to chime in with comments.  Since I won’t have access to The Cable I’ll be relying on the various states’ websites for election info.   At this point, polls have closed in Georgia and South Carolina.

I didn’t talk much about the South Carolina governor’s race, but it is an interesting test of the Tea Party’s clout.  They are backing Nikki Haley in the Republican primary. You may have heard about this race because  of the charges of infidelity leveled at Haley – charges she denies.   The more interesting aspect of her candidacy, however, is that Sarah Palin swooped in to endorse her, and – perhaps coincidentally – her polling numbers took off.   Most of her support – like that of Rand Paul’s – comes from more conservative voters who are dissatisfied with the Republican establishment.  So this race is another indicator of the Tea Party’s clout.   Haley needs to get 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff.

There’s also a potentially interesting race in S.C’.’s 4rth congressional district between incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis  and the Tea Party-backed candidate Trey Gowdy.  Inglis voted against the Obama stimulus package, but he did vote for the bank bailout (TARP) bill and has taken alot of grief for it from the Tea Party activists.   Lots of Facebook links to sites like “Fire Bob Inglis” proliferated after that vote.

The other interesting test of Tea Party strength that I didn’t mention before is in the California Senate Republican primary.  Although Palin has come out for Fiorina, many Tea Party activists are supporting the more conservative state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.  Although Fiorina has the deep pockets, it will be interesting to see whether DeVore does better than expected.

Finally, one thing to keep in mind when we look at the polling in Arkansas, which shows Lincoln losing to Halter: most of those polls are by Research 2000, a polling firm closely tied to the Daily Kos website which has come out strongly for Halter.  Unfortunately, Research 2000 polls have been very inaccurate, in large part because their voter sample over represents younger voters.

One other thing we want to look for tonight: turnout.   For example, in Arkansas’ May primary, in which Lincoln didn’t win enough votes to avoid a runoff, only 29% of the states 1.6 million registered voters actually went to the polls.  I expect that number will be even lower tonight.  Remember, primaries tend to have lower turnout and those who do vote tend to be more ideologically extreme.  This is why the Tea Party could do surprisingly well, and why we have to be careful generalizing from primary results to the general election.

I just took another look at the final Research 2000 Arkansas poll – it had Halter up over Lincoln by 49-45%.  With a 4% margin of error, and the additional bias built into the Research 2000 survey, I think that means Lincoln goes into this with a very slight lead.

7:51 nothing is showing on the Georgia or South Carolina state websites as yet, so I’m going to take a short break.

8:30 Ok, the S.C. state website has initial returns.  Haley is pulling in 42% of the vote – 12% over her closest rival, but not enough to avoid a runoff.  However, I have no feel for S.C. politics so I can’t tell whether this is good news for her.   My sense from skimming the S.C. media is that her support is broadly distributed across the state, so I suspect this is good new for her.

9:16  Haley is inching closer to 50%, which would mean she would avoid a runoff.  Meanwhile, with about 2% of the vote counted, incumbent Republican Bob Inglis – (S.C. – 4rth) – he who voted for the TARP and therefore got targeted by the Tea Party – doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to avoiding a runoff.  Will the anti-incumbency bug strike again?

btw –  Garnett has started off strong. Celtics up 12-9.

9:27  Ok, 1% of Arkansaas vote counted, Lincoln is up 53-47%  Again, I have no sense of the distribution of support in Arkansas so am hesitant to project.

9:40 Haley is at 50% with about 9% counted.   Meanwhile, the Celtics are in a funk.

9:54  With 4% in, Lincoln has expanded her lead – she’s up 57-42%  I’ve been lurking on some other sites with people who know Arkansas politics and they are suggesting she’s doing better than expected.  (That is, better than expected based on DailyKos/Research 2000 polls!)

Celtics are edging back into it. Down 10.  make that 8. Rondo!

10:00  12% of the South Carolina vote in, and Haley is at 50%.  The Tea Party Express is rolling down the tracks….

12% of the Arkansas vote in and Lincoln is holding steady at 53-47.  Progressives poured a lot of money into this race on Halter’s behalf, as did labor unions, and, among other groups.

10:11  Is this another sign of the Tea Party strength/anti-incumbent fervor?  Incumbent Republican Bob Inglis is getting trounced by Tea Party favorite Trey Gowdy, 60%-19%, with 13% of the vote in.

Meanwhile, the Celtics could use some Tea Party magic – they are down 12 at the half….

10:16 Oops – my bad!  I’ve been reporting the percent of registered voters who have voted as the percent of votes counted. Obviously they are not the same thing.  So, with 29 of 46 counties reporting in South Carolina, Tea Party candidate Trey Gowdy is crushing the incumbent Republican Bob Inglis, and Tea Party-backed Nikki Haley is on the brink of winning the gubernatorial primary outright, with 50% of the vote.

So far, this is a good night for the Tea Party.   We’ll see how Chuck DeVore does in California….

The Arkansas Democrat Senate race is tightening – with 44% of counties in, Lincoln’s lead has been shaved to 1%, 50-49.  Meanwhile, the Celtics are cutting into the Laker’s lead as well – now down 7.

With 36 of 46 counties reporting in S.C.  Haley is just below 50% but Gowdy is still crushing the incumbent Inglis.

11:00 pm.  With 68% of Arkansas counties reporting, Lincoln is in good shape, with a 51-48% lead.  Strike a blow for moderates – so far.

Celtics are down 6 at the end of the 3rd.   The bench came through, compensating for Pierce and Allen, who are both having off nights.

With 40 of 46 counties counted, Tea Party-backed candidate Gowdy is going to beat the incumbent Inglis in South Carolina’s 4rth district -he’s up 39-27.   Meanwhile, the Celtics have cut it to 3 points.

With almost all the votes counted in South Carolina, it looks like a big night for the Tea Party.  Haley is at 49% in the Republican primary – not enough to avoid a runoff, but it puts her in a commanding position.   Gowdy is trouncing the incumbent Inglis, 39-27, which puts him in good positioon for the runoff.

I haven’t said much about Nevada, but we are getting results now.  Again, it’s good news for the Tea Party:  their candidate, Sherri Angle, is leading with 30% of counties reporting, Angle is up 37%-30% over the nearest candidate.  Meanwhile, the first California results are in, and Carly Fiorina looks like she’ll waltz to victory in the Republican primary.

Meanwhile, AP has called the Arkansas race for Lincoln.  Strike one for moderates, and for incumbents.

In the biggest race of the night, the Celtics lose to the Lakers.    They couldn’t close the deal after cutting the Laker’s lead to 2.  We’ll have an update on all the races (including the Celtics’) tomorrow.  But for now, it looks like a good night for the Tea Party….More tomorrow .

It’s Primary Day! Some Themes to Look For…

Ten states are holding primaries today, making it the biggest election day until the November general election midterms.  Politico has a roundup of some of  the key races here, so I’m not going to duplicate their coverage.  Instead, I want to focus primarily on those races that seem particularly relevant to the two dominant election themes this election cycle that I’ve posted about before: the growth of the anti-incumbent sentiment (including but not restricted to the Tea Party movement), and the decline of the moderate middle in Congress. But there’s also an interesting gubernatorial race in Iowa that may have implications for the 2012 presidential election. Keeping these themes in mind, what are the most significant primaries today, and what will the outcomes in these races tell us, if anything, about November’s midterms?

In Arkansas, two-time incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln is in a tough fight with the more progressive Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.  (This is the runoff election dating from May 18, when no one captured 50 percent of the Democrat primary vote.) Lincoln, you’ll recall, was one of the Democratic holdouts on the health care bill and she ranks as among the most centrist members of Congress – part of that moderate middle whose ranks have been depleted in recent years.  Will she be the next to go?  Note that Obama has endorsed Lincoln – in recent races that has usually spelled defeat for the endorsed candidate (although not necessarily because of the endorsement)!

In Nevada, three Republican candidates are vying for the opportunity to take on Senate Majority leader Democrat Harry Reid come November.  The current front-runner in the polls is Sharron Angle, who has the backing of most (but not all) Tea Party activists.

In California, meanwhile, three-term incumbent Senate Democrat Barbara Boxer is viewed by some as vulnerable come November, making the outcome of the Republican primary in that state today of particular interest.  Polls suggest that former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is the Republican front-runner.  Fiorina has deep pockets and if she wins the Republican primary she would give Boxer a very very tough race come November.

Of course, with all the focus on the Senate, it is easy to overlook the House races.  Several moderate incumbents are in danger of losing to more extreme candidates in the primary.  One is Democrat Jane Harman, who represents California’s 36th district.  She’s being challenged from the Left by teacher Marcy Winograd.  If I can, I’ll try to do a separate post on key House races later today.

Finally, in Iowa, both Democrats and Republicans are holding primaries to determine who will carry the party banner in the race for Governor.  Whoever wins will be the face of the party come 2012, when Iowa will hold their highly-publicized presidential caucus.  As a result, potential presidential candidates in 2012 have a stake in this race – they want to back the winner.  On the Republican side, former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has a lead in the polls over Bob Vander Plaats.  Both Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney are backing Branstad.  Mike Huckabee supporters Vander Plaats, his 2008 campaign co-chair.

In light of Rand Paul’s recent primary victory, we should pay attention to those races in which the Tea Party has backed an anti-establishment candidate.  The Nevada Senate Republican primary is one such race.  But the Tea Party’s influence may be stronger in the less publicized House races that are down ticket. Part of the Tea Party’s problem, however, has been a tendency for its supporters to split their vote among many candidates.   If I can do a post on the House races, I’ll try to identify those in which the Tea Party has backed a candidate.  I welcome comments from the political junkies out there who may be more familiar with those races in which the Tea Party has been actively involved.

Keep in mind that all these elections are taking place in what Gallup polling (see chart below) suggests is the most inhospitable climate for incumbents since the wave election in 1994.

Stay tuned. I’ll try to post later tonight or tomorrow assessing the results and what they may portend for November.

Why the Oil Spill Tells Us Nothing About the Effectiveness of Obama’s Management Style

The punditocracy’s willingness to derive lessons for Obama’s presidency based on his (mis)handling of the Gulf spill seems to grow daily in proportion to the spread of that spill. Much of the recent criticism centers on what the spill reveals about deficiencies in Obama’s “management style.” Unfortunately, pundits do not always agree regarding to what “management style” refers. Some, like Jonathan Alter,  emphasize temperamentpointing to Obama’s rather cerebral demeanor, and his failure to show anger over BP’s inability to stem the flow of oil.  Others focus more on his willingness to delegate authority to “czars” across a range of issue areas, and a general overreliance on his White House staff. Still others point to misplaced faith in “elites” – particularly policy experts – more generally.  Mixed in with these criticisms are the inevitable analogizing to previous presidents and events (Obama’s “Katrina”, Jimmy Carter’s “Passionless Presidency”).

I understand media commentators’ need to derive some overriding lesson about Obama’s approach to the presidency based on his response to the oil spill.  But I think these efforts are misplaced.  In fact, the oil spill tells us absolutely nothing useful about the pitfalls of a particular management style. This is partly because the spill is sui generis; as an unprecedented event, it is hard to derive generalizations from Obama’s response to it.  Moreover, most of the efforts to pin the crisis on the managerial aspects of Obama’s presidency are simply too ad hoc and imprecise to be very useful.  The criticisms are much like the celebrated “proverbs of administration” that political scientist Ed Banfield skewered about a half-century ago in his biting criticism of the “science” of administration. For every “management principle”, he pointed out, one could always cite an equally well known but opposite nostrum. (Two heads are better than one!  Too many cooks spoil the broth!)  So it is with Obama’s management style.  When elected, the pundits praised his cerebral demeanor.  Now he’s not angry enough.  Early assessments cited his ability to strike a happy medium between over reliance on experts versus micromanagement.  Now he is too aloof from the details of governing and too dependent on his White House staff.

This explains, I think why commentators are able to extract so many managerial lessons from Obama’s handling of the Gulf Spill – no single lesson stands out. So pundits are free to pass off their own conjecture (Not angry enough! Delegates too much!) or historical allusions (Obama’s Teddy Roosevelt moment!) or policy preferences (A chance to wean us from carbon fuels!) as a substitute for careful analysis.  In truth, I see no evidence that a different management style – whether one defines that as a more demonstrative temperament, or more hands-on staff supervision, or less reliance on experts, would have prevented the spill or done very much to halt its spread.  Indeed, the focus on management style, in the end, is premised on the mistaken assumption that Obama, as president, somehow controls the levers of government – and that government controls Mother Nature (or BP).  At best one might conclude that Obama has very little working knowledge of the executive branch.  I happen to think that is true, but I’m not willing to conclude that a more experienced administrator could have prevented the blowout, or even done much to plug the leak or hasten the government’s response.

If we persist in trying to find some meaning in this event – some telltale window of insight into the Obama presidency – let me suggest focusing instead on the Obama’s administration efforts to sharpen its communication strategy in the aftermath of the spill. In an interview, Obama senior White House adviser David Axelrod portrayed the aftermath of the crisis as primarily a public relations problem rather than a management failure: “Nobody can look at the response and say we were slow in doing what we were doing,” he said, adding, “We didn’t communicate it well.” However, even as administration press secretary Robert Gibbs belittled the idea that “pounding on the podium” could “fix a leak in the ocean,”  the administration began a concerted public relations effort designed to convey the public equivalent of pounding on the podium: Obama canceled overseas trips, invited the families of those killed in the oil rig explosion to the White House, and made several well publicized trips to the Gulf Coast to dramatize his interest in the matter.  Meanwhile, his Attorney General promised legal action against BP. This focus on tightening the message in the absence of policy solutions does seem very characteristic of this administration.

But even this emphasis on public relations probably says less about Obama’s presidency and more about the modern presidency – particularly the way we select presidents in a media-mediated, primary-based nominating process, and the lessons winning candidates typically extract from that campaign, as well as the modern media environment more generally.   And, lacking any viable policy solution, it’s not surprising that the Obama administration would focus on trying to frame the media narrative in a more positive light.

I should be clear here: I’ve written extensively about presidential management styles.  If, by style, one means the characteristic way that a president interacts with advisers, receives and processes information, and communicates decisions, then yes – style matters, at least at the margins of presidential decisionmaking. (I’ll try to write a separate post on this topic.)  But I need to see more evidence before I can believe that Obama’s particular management style – however defined – either contributed to the Gulf oil spill or slowed the government’s response to it.