The Politics of an Analogy
According to my website archives, I haven’t linked to a David Brooks column in The New York Times in well over two years, but this one from yesterday’s paper resonated with me, so that drought is coming to an end. I have been resisting the comparison between the BP Gulf oil spill and Hurricane Katrina for as long as it has been circulating in the public discourse on the latest catastrophe. As much as Republicans have been pushing the line (almost from the get-go) that the spill is President Obama’s Katrina, it just hasn’t felt like the appropriate historical analogy to me.
But David Brooks is onto something with his suggestion that the more appropriate historical comparison might end up being President Carter’s Iranian hostage crisis. When I saw that the lead story on one network’s evening news last night was entitled Oil Spill: Day 43, it brought up vivid memories for me of Ted Koppel’s weeknight show during the hostage crisis, The Iranian Crisis – America Held Hostage: Day XXX (later Nightline). It was a brutal daily reminder that Carter seemed impotent to deal with the crisis.
In my travels over the Memorial Day weekend, I had an opportunity to talk with several Obama supporters. In general, they believe that the president is getting a raw deal, and that it makes total sense for him to rely on the superior technical expertise of the oil and gas industry as the best chance for capping the spewing oil well. But I think the fair question here is whether there are other steps beyond the specific issue of stopping the flow of oil that the Obama Administration could be taking, in order to provide more relief on the ground to affected industries, communities and individuals, as well as to organize a massive mobilization of manpower for purposes of containment and clean-up. This seems to be one of the storylines increasingly being explored by the media, and in the long-run it could be as damaging for Obama as the gushing oil well itself.

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