June 7, 2010
Barack Obama: Let Them Eat Tar Balls
So many parties, so little time.
You are Barack Obama, and you know how to party. And now, as oil hits the Florida beaches and dying wildlife and desperate Louisiana fishermen fill the cable news in searing testimony to what Reuters is calling our "worst environmental disaster," you are doing what you do best...party.
Your bureaucrats have been saying "No we can't" to request after request for assistance along the Gulf Coast, but for you it has been "Yes we can" as you spend taxpayer dollars on entertainment at a greater rate than any U.S. president. Your parties have averaged one every three days and your vacations seem endless as you've satisfied the vow of your former social secretary to bring "the same kind of [party] environment" you had in Chicago to the White House.
You weren't known for your attention to business in the Illinois state senate, but, as one friend said about you and Michelle, "if there was a party or an event, they were there." And as little as you did in the Illinois and the U.S. senates, you've been doing even less in the Gulf, notes radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Even Politico, a part of the Washington Post all-Barack-all-the-time media empire, says you are "failing the test of leadership" with your obvious distaste for getting your hands dirty. And the ubiquitous Dick Morris flatly states the emerging consensus: Our "president doesn't have a clue" when he steps off the dance floor.
You're Barack Obama, and you're not the first black president (Bill Clinton beat you to it), the first incompetent president (Jimmy Carter was there for us in the modern era), or the first professor president (Woodrow Wilson brought his Princeton University-blessed master race theories to the White House). But you are the first party president, with more social affairs than any White House in the nation's history. "Party on" was the way WorldNet Daily described it; another summed it up in a headline, "Obama During Oil Spill -- Golf, Parties, Photo-Ops...and More Golf!"
With George and Martha looking down from their framed perches on the walls of the stately East Room, you've turned the White House into "a showcase of glitzy extravagance." Welcome to Barack Obama's Animal House...er, National Lampoon's White House...no, let's get this straight, Barack Obama's White House.
You have created a world of lavish galas, of black ties and celebrity chefs, of "star-studded" guest lists, celebrated by the admiring Washington Post as a return to "Camelot, the Big Myth, the story of American royalty[.]" You are for the media elites "Camelot's new knight" in "shining armor," and, together with Michelle, you are royalty bringing this dreary republic "a palace of sunshine."
Awesome, beamed The Washington Post in print last week about your celebration of the music of Paul McCartney. "It was all love" for both you and Sir Paul, for your friends on "the A-List." Michelle cried, you had tears in your eyes, and even Jerry Seinfeld offered a sniff or two.
Meanwhile, down on the coast, there were no dazzled and dazzling Washington Post reporters recording the tears of the boat captain who, when asked about the future, replied, "I don't know -- my life, my boat, it is all gone." And in the Gulf, the black balls of tar were swaying in the angry waves as a new hurricane season pushed them toward shore.
Swaying meant something different last week to you, Barack Obama. You were "swaying along to the beat," Fox News told us, while a "star-studded list of celebrities" joined with the Democratic Party elite and a few favored journalists scrambling to get their pictures taken with you. Another week of partying with our "new American royalty."
But popping up in the photo ops with Elvis Costello and Stevie Wonder and Beyonce and Sheryl Crow and Josh Groban, in the sumptuous spreads prepared by a continuous line of celebrity chefs dropping their magic on gold-trimmed fine bone china, in the Green Curry Prawns with Caramelized Salsify and the Oregon Wagyu Beef in Oaxacan Black Mole -- in all of this, there is a haunting hint of John Belushi's "Bluto" Blutarsky urinating on the shrubs outside the East Room.
Haunting because a bureaucratic black hole continues to swallow the requests of angry Gulf state officials as they have struggled to get in front of the oil heading toward their shores. "Mired down in bureaucracy" was the way the Weekly Standard put it. This weekend the tides brought in the "wildlife apocalypse along the Gulf Coast that everyone has feared for weeks."
For weeks. For weeks, state officials and citizens at every level have asked you, hammered at you, screamed at you -- we need help. But you're Barack Obama, and you are American royalty, and, as you told the "A-List" gathered in the White House last Wednesday, you need your celebration every bit as much as the Gulf needs berms to hold back the oil because "what gets us through tough times is music, the arts...the ability to capture that essential kernel of ourselves."
And so you were in the North Carolina mountains on vacation a couple of weeks ago, seeking that "essential kernel" of yourself on the streets of a city known as the San Francisco of the East Coast. And while Louisiana boat captain Dave Marino helplessly watched his nightmare unfold, you enjoyed three days of "delectable food," of relaxing in "massaging waterfall pools[,] an [sic] eucalyptus-infused steam room," and "majestic view[s]" from the sumptuous Biltmore House, the "largest private residence in America."
As the media noted, you found your "essential kernel" even while "[p]elicans struggle to free themselves from oil" and "stretch out useless wings, feathers dripping with crude" and "dead birds and dolphins wash ashore, coated in the sludge." Because you're Barack Obama, and it's all about you as "you left [North Carolina] with a spring in [your] step and a romantic glow."
And so back in Washington, Rolling Stone looked on in awe as the music at your party "visibly transported" you to an internal world love. But it did not transport you to the Environmental Protection agency, where a horde of "top" officials discussed your "ongoing efforts" -- but did not respond to the frantic requests of local and state officials for permits to stop the oil.
And it did not transport you to the Bureau of Mineral Management, where your Harvard-educated appointee did "almost nothing" for the beleaguered citizens of the Gulf Coast, finally resigning in the storm of protest. As one commentator observed, you could have provided help "instantly with a phone call." But you didn't.
You are Barack Obama, and "American royalty" is what the Washington Post calls you. And royalty needs parties, pleasure, celebration, and adoring crowds. Your guests left their Hollywood mansions, their colonial revival townhomes in Georgetown, their upper-Manhattan brownstones and penthouses to applaud as you "smiled broadly and swayed" this past week.
And for almost two years it has been party after party, celebration after celebration, thrilled right down to your "kernel" by love in black tie and silk gown.
You are Barack Obama, and you are American royalty.
And as for the people of the Gulf Coast: Let them eat tar balls.
Stuart Schwartz, a former retail and media executive, is on the faculty at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.