between Obama and Carter, with his much maligned legacy, were until recently
the preserve of the neoconservatives, who competed in bad faith to attack a
president whose ideological orientation doesn't suit them. … But now those
comparisons have taken on more substance."
Followers of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking a majority of the embassy staff hostage. They were held 444 days, doing great damage to the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Is the oil spill doing the same to President Obama?
Like Jimmy Carter with his
daily reminder from TV stations about the Tehran hostage crisis, Barack Obama may
fall victim to pictures showing, in real time, crude oil spreading quickly across
the Gulf of Mexico
Comparisons between Obama and
Carter, with his much maligned legacy, were until recently the preserve of the
neoconservatives, who competed in bad faith to attack a president whose
ideological orientation doesn't suit them.
But now those comparisons have
taken on more substance. America's greatest environmental catastrophe
of all time is monopolizing the attention of the White House and media - as was
the case during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, with the affair involving American hostages
at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
During the 444 days of the
hostage crisis, front pages of newspapers recounted the fates of the diplomats held
in Tehran. Today, whenever they cover the oil spill, TV stations split
television screens in half to show the crude gushing out live from the wellhead,
5,000 feet deep.
Counting the days since the
fatal April 20 accident - and we are now 60 - is reminiscent of the Iran
hostage crisis 30 years ago.
The two crises are also
similar in that neither Carter nor Obama have control of the situation. As Politico's Bill Schneider wrote, "power is the
ability to control events." Faced with the black tide, Obama risks appearing
as impotent as Carter when he confronted the hostage crisis in Iran.
Schneider suggests that Obama
avoid this trap by not allowing the oil spill and media to dictate his agenda,
as was the case with Carter.
Comparisons of how the 1979 accident
at Three Mile Island
impacted the nuclear power industry and the way the oil spill may affect offshore
drilling may put the Jimmy Carter era in a new light.
This week, after his first
televised speech from the Oval Office (judged harshly by American commentators),
Barack Obama still managed to force British Petroleum to provide a $20 billion fund
to compensate victims of the spill.
Watching the lynching of BP
chairman Tony Hayward, who yesterday submitted himself to a brutal
interrogation broadcast live from Congress, the central hope of the White House
was that the wrath of public opinion be diverted toward the oil company.
The other hope, a small one,
is that television and the viewers get tired of the images from the seabed,
which vary little and eventually prove tiresome...
They may, however, occupy
minds and screens until the moment the leak is stopped, which is not expected to
come before the month of August.
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