While comparing the spill to Katrina had some degree of merit, I was a bit surprised to hear people start comparing the spill to the Iran Hostage Crisis that put the lid on Carter’s presidential coffin. However, the analogy is worth considering.
Oversimplifying things, the hostage crisis was an ongoing situation that created a festering political wound. Through this wound leaked Carter’s credibility and political reputation. After all, going month after month and being unable to take effective action tends to be rather damaging. In the case of the spill, the situation is ongoing and is damaging Obama. While the main failures are due entirely to BP, people tend to perceive Obama as accountable (the media contributes to this perception). As such, Obama’s reputation is being damaged because the situation is seen by some as showing that he is ineffective.
Another point of comparison is that both crises have a history of governmental misdeeds behind them. The hostage crisis was caused, in part, by a history of actions taken by the West (such as propping up an oppressive police state). In the case of the BP spill, BP has been allowed to operate despite a truly horrifying record. For whatever reason, the government has failed to properly reign in BP and get it to act properly. This helped lay the foundation for the disaster and, as such, the government deserves some blame. Of course, it is unfair to stick all the blame on Obama-he inherited the problem
As such, the comparison does have some merit.
Of course, the comparison also breaks down. First, as noted above, the main failings are on the part of BP, a corporation, and not on the part of the administration. As such, it is more apt to say that this is BP’s “hostage crisis.” Second, unlike the hostage crisis, there does not seem to be any clear action that the government can take to fix the problem. The oil cannot be negotiated with, impressed by a show of resolve, or otherwise influenced by political means. It is primarily a specialized engineering problem and the experts on this problem are 1) already working on it and 2) consistently failing. True, the government could be doing more and, most critically, more should have been done to ensure that BP was not operating the way it did.
As such, the comparison does not seem to quite stick. But, check back in a few months…