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Slick! Now the Moniker of Two Presidents

Generally, the measure of any president’s leadership abilities is revealed in moments of crisis. During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy, over a period of eleven days, marshaled the greatest, most imaginative minds he could, both from the secular world and from the government, brought them together and began a risk assessment process. He divided these individuals into two groups, each containing non-governmental members, and government members. Then the brain storming began. Each group had to imagine and develop various scenarios of what could occur if various steps were taken in response to the Soviet Union’s attempts to deploy missiles in Cuba.
They were tasked with developing these scenarios on a point -counterpoint basis, probing into every potential outcome they could imagine. The groups then assessed the risks and ultimate possible consequences. In the end, Kennedy decided to conduct a blockade. One of the options, which was strongly promoted by some members of the military, was an attack against the Soviet Union.* I believe, that history has shown over time, that the path taken was probably the wisest one.

A month after the Oil Spill Crisis, I began to ask myself, ‘What great minds has President Obama gathered together into a room?’ I just discovered that 50 days after the crisis he hadn’t even spoken with the CEO of BP. It appears that his agenda during the 50 plus days after the crisis involved more playing than role playing, and more ‘legal posturing’ to keep legal options open against BP, than ‘positioning to arrest and mitigate a great global disaster.’

The issue of dealing with deep sea oil rigs, aging spars and wells is not a new one. Shell Oil has had significant experience dealing with aging spars and rigs in the North Sea. They also have had to deal with the obstructions from groups like environmental protest groups that made it more difficult to safely, methodically and effectively remove old spars, such as the Brent Spar. It is clear that Royal Dutch Shell and all of their affiliates have been amassing knowledge over time on how to effectively deal with this equipment. This is why it came as such a shock when the Dutch offered assistance in containing and cleaning the oil spill, and the Obama Government turned up its nose at the offer.

This brings us to the second most significant and reliable measure of a President’s, or any leader’s greatness, and that is, humility. How would it have been if, after the attacks on the twin towers, President Bush had said to Tony Blair, “Keep your nose out of this. I can handle it myself.” Instead, our President, probably somewhat overwhelmed by the enormity of the onslaught found himself assisted by a great and noble leader, Tony Blair. The British Prime Minister saw the crisis, the scrambling of resources, and reached out to show immediate solidarity, something I wish we could do for the Brits, in their time of crisis, and… make no mistake… what is happening in the Gulf is every bit as much a crisis for them as it is for us.

Well, I think it’s clear that Obama fails in the humility department. As far as the ‘meeting of the minds’ goes, when I heard that he was enlisting the help of some Hollywood actors to go investigate the oil crisis, my jaw dropped. In the midst of his quipping, “What do they expect me to do, Put on a diving suit and go down and patch it?”. “What do they expect me to do, suck it up with a giant straw?” I thought that I had heard on the radio that he was conferring with ‘Fat Albert’, which turned out to be Admiral Thad Allen, fortunately. I suppose, in my mind that I had so given up on the idea that he was seeking a substantive solution to the horrible situation and that he was given over to looking to Hollywood for answers, that my ears had somehow heard that he was finally talking to cartoon characters.

Is it possible that a President in times of crisis can really rally the best minds to provide solutions, or is he, truly no more than a cheerleader? Is it true that he can actually come up with solutions of his own to try to pull things together, or is the president, by his very nature, just destined to create more divisiveness?

Can a president really be the person who makes it happen, first by his words, and then by his actions?

“What do you expect me to do, wave a wand and Raise the Towers back up, fight against the very nations that send us oil?”
“What do you expect me to do, challenge the entire Soviet Union regarding the Wall Of Berlin? Do you really think it’ll get torn down? Maybe I should go out there with a hammer and beat on it myself!”
“What do you expect me to do, to try in just 48 hours to stop the huge Soviet Union from sending missiles to Cuba, their own ally?”
“What do you expect me to do, fight against the militarily prepared Japanese and Germans? My God, they are kicking Britain’s butt all over the place! You expect me to be able to do anything about that?”
“What would you have me to do, to try to maintain a more perfect Union? To do anything about the trafficking in human slavery?”

“Prithee, what dost thou expect me to do, to give up the comfort of my own home, my shipping industry, my newspaper, my plantation, to risk all to fight against an oppressive government we can no longer endure?”

“What do you expect me to do?”

Copyright June 12 2010 by Juan Zapatero

*Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming” by Michael D.Watkins and Max H. Bazerman


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