How much will the BP oil spill hurt President Obama politically? The "Obama's Hurricane Katrina" comparison has gained some traction, but commentators in search of a suitable analogy are already moving on to bigger political disasters. One recurring theory: That the never-ending oil disaster will dominate and doom Obama's presidency much as the drawn-out Iran hostage crisis destroyed President Carter's. (Watch Chris Matthews make the comparison.) Here's a look at the evolution of the BP spill = Iran hostage meme:
Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism, May 20
Main point: Introduces the Iran hostage crisis parallel
"Obama does not want to look impotent. Revealing that the leak is really bad and not having a quick solution is an Obama PR disaster... If the leak is as serious as I fear, this is environmental equivalent of the Iran hostage crisis. Team Obama recognizes this, and therefore wants to create the impression as long as possible that everything that could possibly be done is being done."
"Why is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill an information dead zone?"
James Pethkoukis, Reuters, May 28
Main point: Underlines Obama's lack of control as key to the analogy
"If BP can’t permanently stop the leak? Then the problem isn’t Obama’s Katrina, it is his Iranian hostage crisis — a long-term problem he has no control over that continually drains his political capital and popularity."
"Katrina? Gulf spill may be Obama’s Iranian hostage crisis"
Jill Lawrence, Politics Daily, May 28
Main point: "Iran hostage" meme could stick where Katrina one didn't
"Obama is widely viewed as smart and his administration has not been branded incompetent. Still, there is an emerging narrative that could damage Obama if it sticks... his alleged detachment and inability to connect... [James] Carville and [Chris] Matthews have wondered why Obama was not engaging with the families of the dead and people who've lost their livelihoods... Matthews, offering cold comfort, has said the Gulf spill is less like Katrina than the drip-drip of the Iran hostage crisis that finished off Jimmy Carter's presidency."
"Obama's crucible: Oil spill isn't his 'Katrina' — yet"
George Will, on ABC's "This Week," May 30
Main point: This is hitting Obama in his first term when, like Carter, he is still untested
"I think the danger isn't that this is his Katrina. It's that it's his Iranian hostage crisis. That happened to Carter in his first — and it turned out only — term. So it wasn't like Katrina... Bush was a spent force by then anyway and it reinforced the perception. People said Carter is well meaning, they like him, intelligent fellow but maybe he isn't up to the job and the jury is still out on that for Barack Obama."
"New media meme: Oil spill is 'Obama's Iran hostage crisis'"
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, May 30
Main point: Still, perhaps Obama can turn this around
"Now it is up to Obama to show he is fully engaged with this homegrown Gulf crisis without being held captive by it like, say, President Jimmy Carter with the Iran hostage crisis. Obama needs to overhaul the appropriate watchdog agencies and hold BP accountable, not only for fixing the problem and paying for all of its damages and cleanup costs but also for transparency."
"No Katrina moment for Obama — yet"
David Brooks, New York Times, June 1
Main point: Like the hostage crisis, the president's failure will ultimately become the country's failure
"Everybody is comparing the oil spill to Hurricane Katrina, but the real parallel could be the Iranian hostage crisis. In the late 1970s, the hostage crisis became a symbol of America’s inability to take decisive action in the face of pervasive problems. In the same way, the uncontrolled oil plume could become the objective correlative of the country’s inability to govern itself."
"The oil plume"