What Now: Passion or Reason?
Like his fellow Chicagoan Oscar Brown Junior, Barack Obama appears to conduct his life by one golden rule: “whatever happens don’t blow your cool.” Hence it is no accident that he has gained the sobriquet “No Drama Obama.” His constant cool was much remarked about during the Presidential election; it enabled him to appear calm and “presidential” when John McCain was running around in circles like the “Energizer Bunny” during the financial crisis.
Mr. Obama displayed that same cool, calm, collected manner during his press conference explaining his administration’s response to the burgeoning oil crisis in the Gulf Of Mexico that threatens to obliterate the economy and culture of the states nestled along the Gulf. The President systematically laid out his plan to deal with this crisis and placed his critics on the defensive in his forthright answers to the probing questions put to him by the press corps.
No doubt he had heard the mounting criticisms about him moving too slowly, appearing unattached and overly calm in the face of disaster. Perhaps the President’s cool resulted from the fact that he knows the catastrophe in the Gulf is just one more crisis he inherited and he is doing all that can be done at the moment…so his conscience is clear. However Barack’s caution in predicting precisely when the problem will be solved reflects the uncertainty of our best scientific minds.
For instance Professor Mishu Kaku, an internationally renowned theoretical physicist at the City University of New York and my longtime colleague at WBAI, compares the effort to plug the leak in the underground pipe to a Three Stooges skit with everybody running around in a whack-a-mole routine. Dr. Kaku explained “This is the biggest scientific experiment of our time; nobody in the world has experience with this type of operation.” Hence the Republican attempts to blame this disaster on the President, and their constant carping about the failure of “the federal government” to solve the problem ignores both the technical difficulties involved and exposes all of their anti-government rhetoric as the mindless BS that it is.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the President’s performance before the media inquisition was his grasp of the both the factual minutiae and the broader realities implied by the massive oil spill. This guy is obviously a quick study and a brilliant analyst of complex facts who can make sense of situations that appear beyond the grasp of our ability to comprehend. Unaffected by even the most provocative questions, Mr. Obama was the personification of the level headed and thoughtful leader. And he explained the complex relationship between the US government and the British Petroleum Corporation in exquisite detail.
The President displayed the same calm and thoughtful manner when he visited the Gulf Coast on Friday and stuck his hands in the oily water. He was reassuring to the country when he calmly explained that “There are only three beaches in the Gulf region that are contaminated; the rest are clean and safe.” The local officials – especially the representatives of commercial fisherman, who are dying a slow death – were ecstatic with his response, including his plans for recovery.
If anything they seemed buoyed by his serenity and candor in admitting that cleaning up this mess would be no easy task and that there would be mistakes: “there are no silver bullets here,” the President said. He also said he understood their anger because he was angry too, and he responded to the hysterical outbursts of James Carvelle and his dreadful Republican wife with the simple observation that Mr. Carvelle didn’t know all the facts regarding the actions the Federal government is taking.
The mark of the true leader is to keep your head when all around you are losing theirs as the poet counsels. In this, as in his ability to communicate with elegant oratory that is both inspiring and enlightening, Mr. Obama is peerless among world leaders and has rarely been equaled among those who have occupied the Oval Office before him. He is a man of vision and high principle who possesses both a brilliant mind and a compassionate heart.
Those who say he lacks passion – like TV pundit Chris Matthews or the long time Democratic Party strategists and Louisiana native James Carville – evidently prefer words to deeds, heated rhetoric over constructive action. I say let the banshees wail but the president should pay them no mind and keep his eyes on the prize. For what the world needs now is less passion and more reason. This is especially true in regard to the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico – which promises to get worse before it gets better – where passion now threatens to overwhelm reason. And that’s bad news indeed, for when this happens things rarely get better and the situation goes from bad to worse!
President Obama Droppin Science…Again!
Harlem, New York
May 29, 2010