Citing the BP oil spill, unemployment and Israeli attacks on a Gaza flotilla, Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s top strategist and pollster for her 2008 presidential campaign, last week argued that voters are now “wondering if they underestimated the value of experience and crisis management as important attributes for their president.”
By dredging up the old argument against then-Sen. Barack Obama from the 2008 Democratic primary that Clinton’s experience suited her best to take the crisis phone call at 3 a.m. (as her old campaign ad claimed), is Penn squeezing sour grapes from losing the primary? Or is he hitting the nail on the head, as frustration mounts with Obama’s handling of a multitude of crises?
“President Obama’s political career and clout have never been in a more perilous state than this week as he faces mounting crises, plummeting poll numbers, and solutions that remain just out of reach,” Penn argued in his Huffington Post opinion article.
On Fox News Sunday, even the reliably pro-Obama administration panelist, Juan Williams of National Public Radio, appeared to agree with Penn’s analysis.
Williams said although the Obama administration has a “tremendous vision about legislative achievements and specific things like health care, going forward on immigration” when “it comes to the crisis, when it comes to the gulf oil spill, the wars, the recession, they feel as if it’s being imposed upon them, rather than taking the helm.”
“I think that’s what Americans are sensing right here,” said Williams.
NPR’s Williams said that’s “the source of their problem at the moment. Are you able to handle a crisis in a convincing way that inspires confidence? And so far, the president hasn’t done that.”
Former Bush administration spokeswoman Dana Perino said there’s a large difference between campaigning as a president who can handle a crisis and actually governing during one.
“I remember during the election listening to all the candidates and thinking they’re probably going to have to eat some words once they start governing, because it’s a lot different. And I think that they found that out,” she said.