Rich Galen

The Obama White House is in full bunker mode. Don't believe me? Here's the definition of "bunker mentality from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Allusions:

In politics, a "bunker mentality" is an embattled frame of mind, often accompanied by an aggrieved sense of being unfairly under attack. The term is most often applied to American Presidents who suffer political reverses and assume a surly, defensive posture - all critics are enemies; if you're not for us you're against us; etc.

Sound familiar? How about last week when the President went on the Today show and - no, I'm not going to get into a discussion about the weak, rehearsed, and ill-advised use of the colloquial word for "rear end" (or, as we used to say growing up on Lawngg Island, "tushy") - I mean what he said at the beginning of that bit:

"I was down there a month ago before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf."

The "talking heads" are the same "nattering nabobs of negativism" so eloquently described by former Vice President Spiro Agnew 40 years ago.

In the weeks since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, the White House has had exactly the same amount of success sealing off criticism as BP has had sealing off the well in the Gulf of Mexico.

That would be approximately zero.

This White House is doing what every White House - Republican or Democrat - does when it is under siege - it goes into a bunker mentality.

The President's advisors thought that sending him out to a formal (if infrequent) press conference would show the American people that he knew his stuff and he was up to a grilling by the "talking heads."

Unfortunately as the President was explaining that he was in total, constant, full-immersion control of all aspects of the oil spill, he had to admit he wasn't at all clear about the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of the woman he had appointed to oversee the Minerals Management Service which had occurred shortly before the presser began.

Rush Limbaugh

This is how well the White House thought that went: The "so I know who's [butt] to kick" line was delivered during a one-on-one interview with the Today show's Matt Lauer. It is much easier to intimidate one "talking head" than a roomful of "nattering nabobs."

Then, to show how really tough they are, the White House wrote a letter for the Federal on-scene coordinator, Rear Adm. James A. Watson, to sign which said:

"BP shall provide the plans for these parallel, continuous, and contingency collection processes, including an implementation timeline, within 72 hours of receiving this letter."

I was on John King's CNN program the next evening and I asked, "Or what? What if BP comes back and says, 'This is our plan. There's no other plan.' Then what?"

Which is what happened.

I have enormous respect for Coast Guardians. They were the heroes in the aftermath of Katrina, but they don't do very good self-promotion so most people don't know that.

I would rather the White House not put the Coast Guard into a position where it has to take the blame by shoving its senior officers on camera.

The next step in building the bunker is to go "over the heads" of the N-Ns-of-N and speak "directly to the American people."

The White House announced over the weekend that President Obama will do that on Tuesday night speaking from the Oval Office following an overnight trip to the Gulf which will take him not only to Louisiana, but to Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida - his first visits to those states.

Note the overnight part. The T-Hs will not be able to complain he parachuted in for a couple of hours then went off to do something really important like raise money for Sen. Barbara Boxer so she can afford an up-to-date hairdo.

With Obama's job approval on the Gallup track stuck in the mid-40s (46-46 on the survey done Thursday, Friday & Saturday) and no other good news to distract us, watch for the circle around Obama to tighten, become more vocal, and more ugly to their perceived enemies as they try to counter-attack their way out of the bunker.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.