There is a strange, immature, and counterproductive tendency of some on the right to criticize the President for his response to the Gulf Spill by focusing on the result alone, without regard to the impossible challenges involved. It seems, so far, that BP has engaged in tremendous efforts to stop this leak, that the leak presents a complicated engineering puzzle one mile in the deep ocean, that the National Guard and other resources are being deployed to clean up beaches, and that a President–any President–has no particular expertise to offer in a situation like this. It’s as if James Carville and others want him to descend, God-like, on the scene and wave a magic wand, using his super powers to do what life-long petroleum engineers at BP cannot.
Obama perhaps is more vulnerable to these types of unrealistic expectations than the average President; after all, his campaign was all about “hope,” “change,” and he was supposed to stop the oceans rising and get the whole world to forget how much they hate our country’s guts. But conservatives should know better. A few–Yuval Levin and Gene Healy–have rightly pointed out that we do our position no long term favors by indulging in this childish, unmanly fantasy that demands the President have a magic touch. Life has problems, sometimes they’re not easily solved but only mitigated, and a President and the government often can’t do a whole lot to help.