September 11, 2001: President George W. Bush waited seven minutes before excusing himself from a classroom full of school children – and the liberal media excoriated him for not rushing out of the room to take command of the crisis.
58 Days after the oil rig explosion, Mr. Obama, in the wake of public criticism, reluctantly meets with BP’s Chief Executive Officer… for 20 minutes.
9:05am, September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush was in Sarasota, Florida at the Emma Booker Elementary School visiting a class of second graders when Andrew Card, the White House Chief of Staff, approached the president and whispered in his ear that a second plane struck one of the World Trade Center Towers (he was informed by Card that a plane had crashed into one of the towers at 9:00am, but, at that time, no one knew whether it was an intentional act or an accident).
The media covered the visit to the grade school and the nation watched as the president, sitting in a chair next to a podium, absorbed the reality of Card’s news and waited for an appropriate moment to leave without alarming the children. His visage is grave. Still and stoic, he sat for seven minutes …
9:30am, the President meets with his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice.
9:57am, per pre-existing Secret Service protocol, the President boarded Air Force One, en route to Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana. Vice President Dick Cheney puts America’s military on high alert. An hour later, he speaks with Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and New York Senator Charles Schumer.
1:04pm, three hours and fifty-nine minutes after learning of the second plane crash, President Bush placed our military on world-wide high alert status and asserts: "Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."
1:14pm, the President telephones New York’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani and Governor George Pataki and assures them "I know your heart is broken and your city is strained and anything we can do, let me know."
During the next few hours, the President has a number of telephone conversations and conferences with his national security staff, the vice president and administration staff while en route to Washington, D.C.
8:30pm, 12 and half hours after the first attack, President George W. Bush addressed the nation. He told us what happened, what was learned within the past 12 and a half hours and the actions taken within this time frame:
“Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it's prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, D.C. to help with local rescue efforts.
Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks...”
“The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice…”
Twenty-six days after the terrorist attacks, October 7, 2001, President Bush addressed the nation and announced that military strikes were underway in Afghanistan against the Taliban, identified as linked to and headquarters for Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11th attacks. Below are excerpts from the president’s speech:
"More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps. Hand over leaders of the Al Qaeda network. And return all foreign nationals, including American citizens, unjustly detained in their country…”Oil Rig Explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, April 20, 2010
"None of these demands was met. And now, the Taliban will pay a price.
The president closed his speech with the following statement:
"The battle is now joined on many fronts. We will not waiver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail.
"Thank you. May God continue to bless America."
On April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred on an oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig, owned by Transocean Ltd. and operated by BP, collapsed, killing 11 people and spewing over 42,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf. The flow of oil continues at approximately that rate each day since the explosion. (Some experts disagree on the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf – most estimates are much higher than 42,000 gallons per day.)
April 22, two days later, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is questioned about the explosion by the press aboard Air Force One…"Has [the president] reached out to anyone in Louisiana over the oil rig explosion?" Gibbs responded, "Let me check on that. I don't believe so . . .
April 26, six days after the explosion of the rig, Mr. Obama tasked Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar with investigating the cause of the accident and proposing new regulations within 30 days.
April 28, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, "The president is very closely monitoring the situation . . .
April 30, Obama placed a moratorium on permits for new offshore drilling sites until after the BP spill investigation is concluded.
May 3, thirteen days after the explosion and spill, the media asks White House press secretary Robert Gibbs if Mr. Obama has spoken to BP. His answer: "I don't believe the president has spoken with anybody at BP.”
May 11, twenty-one days later: Mr. Gibbs said, "I would say the president is deeply frustrated that we have not plugged this leak. Secretary [of Energy Steven] Chu is heading to the area to work with the response team to make sure that we have some of the best and brightest minds down there trying to think through next steps for doing so."
May 22, twenty-two days after the event, with over 40,000 gallons of oil continuing to befoul the Gulf waters each day, the president announced the creation of a national commission, led by former Sen. Bob Graham and former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly, to investigate the government's response to the spill.
May 28, Mr. Obama makes a second trip to the Gulf.
June 8, Mr. Obama appears on NBC’s “Today,” and tells host Matt Lauer, "I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar, we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers - so I know whose ass to kick."
(Thuggish language from the inhabitant of the Oval Office – did you cringe upon hearing this lame attempt at taking a strong position on the issue?)
What else was on Mr. Obama’s agenda during this crisis?
April 20: attended fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer, California
April 22, hosts Rose Garden reception to honor Earth Day
April 23, vacations in Asheville, NC: has lunch, hike and a round of golf
April 24, golf, dinner at the Biltmore
April 25, brunch at Grove Park Resort
April 26, hosts NY Yankees at White House reception
April 28, visits Iowa for pie
April 29, attends DNC fundraiser at private residence
May 1, joins Jay Leno for comedy routine at WHCD
May 2, visits Louisiana -- first trip
May 3, hosts Navy football team
May 4, private lunch with Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel
May 5, Cinco de Mayo party at White House
May 8, more golf at Fort Belvoir
May 9, commencement speech Hampton University
May 11, golf with the vice president
May 12, private reception for President Karzai
May 13, flies to Buffalo for Duff's hot wings
May 14, makes a speech in the Rose Garden regarding the oil spill
May 15, golf, May 16, golf
May 17, hosts University of Connecticut Women's basketball team
May 18, tours factory in Ohio
May 19, hosts state dinner
May 20, meets with rock star/activist, Bono
May 21, visits Pittsburgh Steelers
... golf, golf, party, fundraiser, golf, hosts party, golf, weekend vacation, golf, basketball, barbecue, skips Arlington wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington, hosts part for Paul McCartney at the White House.
June 1, day 43 after leak begins, Mr. Obama meets with Bob Graham regarding the oil spill … more parties, events, golf, fundraisers
June 16, Mr. Obama finally meets with BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward for 20 minutes. Mr. Obama obtains a compensation guarantee of 20 billion dollars, placed in an escrow account.
58 Days … later.
In fairness, all presidents have long days of meetings, special events (including meeting sports teams and rock stars), bestowing awards and visiting various private and public affairs.
Nevertheless, when a disaster strikes and the country suffers, it is incumbent on the nation’s leader to prioritize his agenda, attend to his people, ensure that his administration meets with state or local leaders, coordinates efforts with federal agencies, as well as offer aid and comfort to those in distress.
Contrasts in Leadership: Action and Accountability
President Bush’s actions in response to the September 11th attacks are measured in minutes, hours and days. Within three weeks of the terrorist acts, military strikes began in Afghanistan where the terrorist group was based.
Barack Obama compared the BP oil leak to the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (perhaps a more apt comparison is with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – see note below).
There is no doubt that the BP oil spill is a disaster of undetermined magnitude, with over 7 million barrels of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico thus far and endangering its ecosystem including Bluefin tuna, brown pelicans, shrimp, dolphins, sea turtles and plankton.
The Gulf region’s economic outlook is precarious: per the National Ocean Economics Program, approximately $1 billion of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is attributed to fishing; $13 billion in tourism and $11 billion in oil. Furthermore, this region yields about 20 percent of America’s oyster production and 75 percent of the domestic shrimp output. As the oil sullies the waters and beaches, the effect on tourism for both Louisiana and Florida, may be catastrophic.
The reality in the Gulf is indisputable; this is an extraordinary ecological and economic disaster that demands immediate and effective efforts. The White House has failed to meet the challenge. It appears that its attempts to manage the situation are a consequence of public and media disapproval.
Real leadership requires immediate, decisive action in response to calamitous events. As president, reassuring constituents that you are in charge, concerned and responding appropriately is a vital element of the job.
Clearly, the timelines shown above highlight a sharp contrast in leadership styles (or lack thereof) between Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama.
America needs a leader who will arrange his priorities according to their significance: pushing fair work compensation for illegal aliens; summoning a general, in the midst of prosecuting a war, to the White House to account for unflattering statements made to Rolling Stone magazine or summoning all assets and experts to a devastating domestic disaster, already in progress.
Recent reports indicate that the situation may have repercussions that span beyond the noted and predicted effects on the Gulf coast area. Scientists are evaluating scenarios, but only time will tell if this oil spill ranks as one of the worst natural disasters in American history.
Time will also tell if the current president failed to act promptly and effectively on behalf of his country, perhaps Mr. Obama’s greatest “ego”-logical disaster.
One more note about presidential timelines: General Stanley McChrystal, in August 2009, asked Mr. Obama for the deployment of 40,000 additional troops (some reports indicate that the number was as high as 80,000) to Afghanistan. Mr. Obama launched a three-month review: December 2009, the Commander-in-Chief finally decided to send 30,000 troops.
Approximately, 116 troops died in Afghanistan between August and December, while Mr. Obama “dithered,” and delayed his response to General McChyrstal’s request for soldiers.
President Bush was soundly criticized for his lack of action as Hurricane Katrina approached the Louisiana coastline. While some of the criticism may have been warranted, it should be noted that on Saturday, Aug 27, 2005 – two days prior to Katrina’s landfall, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco asked President Bush to declare a State of Emergency for the state of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina Bush complied, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts…" and freeing up federal money for the state.
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