Today we climb into the Wayback Machine to remind ourselves about how Barack Obama promised that he could handle the world’s toughest executive position better than the previous occupant despite having no executive experience whatsoever — and how he used a Gulf of Mexico crisis as his evidence. In 2008, Byron York reminds us, Obama insisted to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he could handle an emergency in the Gulf much better than ol’ What’s-His-Name as Hurricane Gustav bore down on New Orleans:
COOPER: And, Senator Obama, my final question — some of your Republican critics have said you don’t have the experience to handle a situation like this. They in fact have said that Governor Palin has more executive experience, as mayor of a small town and as governor of a big state of Alaska. What’s your response?
OBAMA: Well, you know, my understanding is, is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We have got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So, I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years. And, certainly, in terms of the legislation that I passed just dealing with this issue post-Katrina of how we handle emergency management, the fact that many of my recommendations were adopted and are being put in place as we speak, I think, indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect.
Byron also felt the need to correct the record about Obama’s reference to “Wasilly”:
Just for accuracy’s sake: Alaska’s budget in 2008 was $11.2 billion, and the state employed about 15,000 people, so while it was nowhere near the size of the federal government — no state is — it was considerably larger than the Obama campaign. But the bigger point of the interview was Obama’s argument that his ability to run a good campaign proved he had executive ability, even though he had no executive experience. Now we are in a situation that cries out for executive experience and leadership — ironically enough, in the Gulf again — and some who accepted Obama’s argument back in 2008 are rethinking things this time around.
I pointed out the same thing at the time. I also pointed out the difference between legislating and being in charge:
Did Barack Obama pass legislation bearing his recommendations for emergency management? A list of “actions” taken by Obama in the wake of Katrina compiled by a supporter doesn’t exactly lend itself to that conclusion. Once one strips out all of the speeches, the actual legislative actions appear to mostly consist of adding his name as co-sponsor to the bills of others, and it’s unclear whether any of the bills Obama did introduce ever passed.
Even if they did, it gives him no experience at managing disasters. Governors and mayors have to manage disasters, and when they succeed, they save lives. When they fail, as we saw in Katrina, it costs lives.
Well, no one can say I didn’t warn people.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!