WASHINGTON -- Four weeks into the worst environmental disaster to strike the U.S. coastline, President Obama still hasn't taken full command of the oil spill that now threatens Gulf state economies.
As the oil debacle unfolded, Obama struck back politically at BP and the other drilling contractors responsible for the oil rig explosion that has poured millions of barrels of oil into Gulf waters and along its shoreline.
But this is a man-made disaster of unprecedented proportions that cries out for immediate presidential action and the considerable resources of the federal government -- technological, military, robotic submersibles and high-level access to the world's oil disaster experts.
Instead, an impotent White House came forth with high-sounding presidential statements and promises of action but little else, as the oil continued to gush into Gulf water, fouling one of the most lucrative fishing grounds along America's coastline.
Why didn't Obama immediately name a high-level environmental strike force to bring to bear the full resources the government has to help plug the leak, instead of turning over frontline responsibility to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who is woefully ill-equipped and unprepared for the job, and whose department knows even less about deep-sea drilling spills?
Four weeks were allowed to pass before the president belatedly decided to establish an independent commission to investigate the oil spill, and only after his administration began to face increasing criticism for its regulatory failures that may very well have contributed to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.
But by then, weeks had passed and the damage was done as the White House stood by, and the focus remained on BP as one fix after another failed to plug the burst well pipe one mile beneath the surface of the sea.
"The U.S. government has a responsibility for protecting the public safety ... and that responsibility, I fear, was not fulfilled in this case," Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said at a hearing Monday.Is this Barack Obama's Hurricane Katrina disaster? It looks that way, with one strategic difference: The compliant news media that never seems to blame Obama for anything, as it did in every case under the Bush administration.
But Obama's failure to seize the reins of leadership in the BP oil catastrophe is one of many major policy failures for which the media have failed to hold him accountable.
Take, for example, the rising unemployment rate that last month rose to 10 percent, more than 20 percent if you count discouraged or part-time workers still looking for full-time work.
The network nightly news shows made much of the 290,000 jobs created in April, but failed to mention or buried the fact that close to 70,000 of them were short term.
Or even to mention that many if not most economists have been forecasting that unemployment will remain near the 9 percent to 10 percent range for the rest of this year and beyond, under Obama's so-called stimulus spending that is now winding down.
University of Maryland School of Business economist Peter Morici and others say the economy will have to create 13 million jobs over the next three years "to bring unemployment down to 5 percent -- still higher than pre-recession levels. That requires 360,000 jobs every month and economic growth at 5 percent a year."
Economists in the administration are not projecting job growth or economic growth anywhere near those numbers. For good reason: Obama's stimulus money is falling into a black hole of temporary projects and federal spending programs that vaporize once the spending stops.
The economic future looks especially bleak at year's end, too, as the administration plans to let the Bush tax cuts expire on Jan. 1 -- raising tax rates on individual and business income, increasing taxes on interest and dividends, and very possibly throwing in a value-added national sales tax to pay for Obama's costly government-run health care plan.
"I have an expensive education in economics. Nowhere do the textbooks state raising taxes creates jobs," Morici says.
The American people instinctively understand that the Obama administration is taking the country in the wrong direction of higher spending, debt and taxation that cannot be good for anyone.
We can see it in the polling numbers in House and Senate races where Democratic incumbents are running behind their challengers. We can see it in shrinking 401(k) and other worker pension funds. And we can see it in Obama's declining approval numbers, now at 47 percent in the Gallup poll.
The message this sends is that the time for evasions and excuses is over and the time for accountability is at hand.