Paul Greenberg

If you missed the president's news conference Thursday, his first in 10 months, here's a succinct summary: It was about the oil spill. And it's mainly somebody else's fault.

Whose? BP's or the previous administration's (his favorite scapegoat even though he's been president now for some 16 months). Or it's the fault of unnnamed "federal agencies" he really has nothing to do with, or the "culture" of the oil industry and government regulation thereof, or ... you name it.

This he called taking responsibility.

Yes, the president admitted his administration was too slow when it came to preventing the catastrophe, and "I take responsibility for that. There wasn't sufficient urgency in terms of the pace of how those changes needed to take place. Obviously, they weren't happening fast enough."

Rush Limbaugh

But that confession required only seconds; the rest of his hour-long press conference was pretty much devoted to how other people hadn't done their jobs. You'd think he was back on the campaign trail attacking the president. Somebody ought to tell him he's the president now.

Nothing has been so revealing of this commander-in-chief's lack of military training than his response or lack thereof to this long, slowly but ever deepening crisis. Because instead of just saying, "No excuse, sir," and clearing the air, there he was at still another rostrum last week talking, talking, talking ... instead of clearly acting on the ground, or rather in the water. The sludge, both physical and political, just keeps coming.

Campaigning and governing mix in a republic, and certainly in a democracy. It's hard to draw the line between spirit and substance. Which was it that buoyed the country when FDR and later Ronald Reagan lifted the nation's morale -- their sublime confidence or actual policies? The two mixed. But in this administration, they begin to separate -- as clearly as oil and water. Disenchantment sets in, and with it failure.

This administration, the president wants us to know, has been on this crisis since, yes, Day One: "Those who think we were either slow on the response or lacked urgency, don't know the facts. This has been our highest priority."

That's nice. But if the administration really has acted quickly, urgently, then why did his Director of Minerals Management have to resign just hours before his press conference? Was it just a coincidence? Did she just happen to pick this time to decide she needed some down time?


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.