Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Finding An Ass To Kick

The residents of coastal Louisiana have already had their behinds kicked, for 50 days. And there are a lot more days and a lot more butt-kickings ahead for those unfortunate people, who’ve had their lives turned upside-down by the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

On the Today Show Tuesday morning, I watched Matt Lauer interview President Obama. He’s clearly agitated about the entire situation, and acknowledges that it’s not some academic exercise or college seminar, but a very much real-world drama for a lot of very real people.

Asked about some of the stupid statements BP CEO Tony Hayward has made in the past few weeks (“I want my life back”), the President made it clear he would fire Hayward if he were his boss, and that he was looking for some “ass to kick.” He wanted to make sure it was the right butt to boot, though.

Some polls show people believe the government’s response to the massive leak doesn’t show enough outrage. Part of what the President did yesterday morning was to address that perception. I guess people expect the President to get right up in Tony Hayward’s face, on live TV, and cuss him out.

Not that it would stop the leak or solve the problem. Sometimes it’s cathartic just to yell at somebody, even if it’s the wrong person. Married people understand this.

Thad Allen, the Coast Guard Admiral in charge of the government effort, says “everybody wants certainty, and with an oil spill like this there isn’t any.” Allen is doing a workmanlike job, but I think the President needs another General Russel Honore.

Honore is the Louisiana-born Creole who came into New Orleans after Katrina, and just plain took over. I’ll never forget the live TV coverage of General Honore in his first moments in the French Quarter, commanding the troops. He barked out one order after another, directed soldiers, cops and anybody else he could see, to take specific action.

This man was obviously in charge, kicking ass and taking names. He was given an extremely difficult mission, to bring together civilian, military, and governmental authorities – along with a couple intransigent politicians – and make them work as a unit to get things done.

General Honore made up for many of the huge gaffes the Bush Administration made (“you’re doin’ a great job, Brownie!”), mainly by giving people hope that something really was going to happen, and through action, not talk. His daily press briefings were famously short and to-the-point.

President Obama needs a leader like General Honore to step up and take over.

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