Douglas Brinkley on CBS: President 'On A Roll' With ObamaCare Before 'Inconvenience' of Oil Spill

Douglas Brinkley, CBS Discussing the Gulf oil spill on Saturday's CBS Evening News,  liberal historian Douglas Brinkley fretted over President Obama's left-wing agenda being in jeopardy: "...he was on a roll with the health care legislation. There was a great hope that before the election he was going to get some things done in Washington. This hit, and I think for President Obama, the spill was an inconvenience."

At the top of the segment, anchor Jeff Glor cited the latest CBS News poll showing that only 38% of Americans approve of Obama's handling of the spill and wondered if "the oil spill defines the President's legacy?" Brinkley replied: "I have no doubt that he spends every hour micro-studying what's going on in the Gulf, but part of leadership is to get on the back of the flatbed Ford and rally the country with the speech." He explained how Obama "...wanted to farm it out. It was B.P.'s problem." But warned: "You don't want to be Jimmy Carter, holed up in the White House during the Iran hostage crisis."

Brinkley went on to hope that "...future generations will say...the Obama administration marshaled the strength of the American people and did the greatest environmental cleanup the world has ever seen." He proclaimed: "This is a turning point in history. The urban president from Chicago is going to have to become the environmental president of the moment."

Here is a full transcript of the June 5 segment:
6:50PM EST

JEFF GLOR: The President just passed 500 days in office and he may have reached a critical moment. The latest CBS News poll shows 38 percent of the Americans approve of the way the Obama administration is handling the oil spill, but more, 44 percent, disapprove.

For perspective tonight, we're joined from Austin, Texas by presidential historian, author, and CBS News consultant, Douglas Brinkley. Doug, always good to see you, my friend. Let's start with a question about the President. You think this is a critical time. Is it possible or even probable, in your opinion, that the oil spill defines the President's legacy?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: There's no question that this is a big event in American history, how the presidents act in a time of crisis is how historians will regard them. I have no doubt that he spends every hour micro-studying what's going on in the Gulf, but part of leadership is to get on the back of the flatbed Ford and rally the country with the speech.

GLOR: Doug, right now is the President shaping events, or being shaped by them?

BRINKLEY: I think he was being shaped by the event. Look, he was on a roll with the health care legislation. There was a great hope that before the election he was going to get some things done in Washington. This hit, and I think for President Obama, the spill was an inconvenience.

You kind of wanted to farm it out. It was B.P.'s problem. But there's no such thing as spending too much time in the Gulf south right now. You don't want to be Jimmy Carter, holed up in the White House during the Iran hostage crisis. This is not a time to be seen dealing with other issues.

The President, rightfully, has canceled a trip to Asia. The cleanup effort needs to be coordinated in a way that future generations will say an awful thing happened in the Gulf of Mexico, but the Obama administration marshaled the strength of the American people and did the greatest environmental cleanup the world has ever seen.

GLOR: Doug, as you know, the President has made some increasingly critical comments about B.P. Does this ultimately become a battle of the President versus B.P.?

BRINKLEY: It should never be that. President Obama represents the United States of America. We are the power. B.P. is nothing but a little fly-speck company. Some people think they're big, but they're nothing compared to the power of the United States. This is a turning point in history. The urban president from Chicago is going to have to become the environmental president of the moment.

GLOR: Doug Brinkley joining us from Austin, Texas. Doug, always good to see you, thanks so much.

BRINKLEY: Thank you, Jeff.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC