06/10/2010 12:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Think Again: Perception, Reality, and Responsibility in the Gulf Oil Spill

The president is in trouble. A New York Times "Week in Review" story, headlined "Obama and the Chaos Perception," argued "the real danger for Mr. Obama's administration--not that the spill itself remains unmanageable, but that it comes to represent a pattern in the public mind, a sense that too many dangers at once... what matters is the perception...." This is a common notion, and it's just as common for a journalist from say, The New York Times, to pretend that newspapers like, say, The New York Times, do not play a significant role in defining those perceptions.

One can find many of the same underlying attitudes in a Politico story entitled "Spill tests Obama management style." Here the argument is slightly more refined: "Administrations are defined, fairly or not, by their capacity to control stagnant backwater agencies, in Obama's case the Minerals Management Service, which failed to detect problems with the Deepwater Horizon well."

The story also quotes Mr. John Burke, a University of Vermont professor, who complains, "This is what you get when you elect someone with legislative, not executive experience." Burke adds, "Legislators don't really have to rely on people to implement their laws--their job is to get them passed. He seems to be that kind of guy, as evidenced by the whole set-up down there [in the gulf], which is organizationally odd."

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