Hurricanes Have Been Very, Very Good To Barack Obama

LFU_FastCurious_Crash_vFHurricane Sandy was very helpful to Barack Obama in his successful bid for re-election in 2012. Mitt Romney’s incompetent campaign and the President’s stage presence weren’t enough to secure victory. Obama was trailing in the national polls for most of the month preceding Election Day.


Then, on October 29, Sandy made landfall with a vengeance along our northeastern shore. The natural disaster halted the campaign of both candidates while the President surveyed the damage. Obama’s perceived handling of the Hurricane’s aftermath gave his campaign the bounce it needed. He bested Romney in the voting booth barely more than one week later.


But, Hurricane Sandy was not the first monster storm of its kind to play a significant role in Obama’s political career. In August 2009, the Telegraph Media Group published an excerpt from ‘Renegade: The Making of Barack Obama’ by Richard Wolffe.


Wolffe, a British-American journalist and MSNBC commentator, wrote a fawning account of Obama’s rise to the White House, a process that began in 2005. Its obsequious tone aside, the excerpt is important for what it reveals about Obama’s view of himself and his presidential motivations. For example, his restless ambition won out over the cost to his family, hardly a unique trade-off among politicians.


Perhaps more surprising is Obama’s conceited belief that he is a great president. In his mind, greatness is the result of the characteristics and strengths in the officeholder matching the needs of the people and the country. But this, of course, is just a start. Strengths matching needs is all drawing board stuff. Action and accomplishment are the measures of success, facts that seem to have completely escaped Obama.


What does this have to do with hurricanes? In 2005, an Obama run for the White House was on schedule to happen, if at all, in either 2012 or 2016. And then Hurricane Katrina slammed into the southeastern U.S., changing Obama’s political timetable.


George Bush, whose strong national security leadership had earned him a second term in the White House just the year before, appeared incompetent. He became an easy target of charged racist claims. Obama recognized his opportunity immediately. He decided to become the voice of the impoverished and forgotten and use it as a springboard to an earlier than planned presidential bid.


According to Wolffe, Obama understands that one of his main strengths is making good speeches. Another is working a crowd. Yet another is an excellent sense of timing. He looked and sounded fresh at a time when the country was desperate for change. A unifying message of hope was a surprisingly easy sell.


Critically, what is missing from Wolffe’s account is any mention of Obama’s substantive qualifications to be the country’s Chief Executive. Rather than management skills, experience or prior achievements, Wolffe writes of personality, verbiage and ingratiation. His lack of qualifications makes Obama less than visionary. What he sees as his greatness is, in reality, a perfect storm of political smoke and mirrors and a populace made gullible by weariness.


No small part of Obama’s Hurricane Sandy boost was the direct result of very laudatory comments from Chris Christie, the Republican Governor of New Jersey. But, one year after Sandy lifted Obama to re-election, federal aid had not yet reached the people of New Jersey. Obama’s Johnny-on-the-spot verbiage helped him right away but those most needy went begging for quite a while. This all blow and very slow go has come to typify the Obama Presidency both in domestic matters and internationally.


His all style presidency has made Obama himself very much like a hurricane. He blew into the White House, tore down what little was left of bipartisanship and is leaving economic and foreign policy devastation in his wake. He will eventually blow out, but it will be some time before the damage is repaired.