Andrea Mitchell: Obama's Slow Reaction to Oil Spill Is Surprising Because Administration Is 'So Intellectual'

MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Thursday attempted to critique Barack Obama's handling of the oil spill, but felt it necessary to point out how "intellectual" and "focused" the administration usually is.

She prefaced her gentle disapproval by exclaiming, "...There was a lot of criticism- and we're not analogizing this to Katrina- but there has been a lot of criticism in the past of decisions made on war and peace and on Katrina by the George W. Bush administration."

Mitchell gingerly added, "And many people praised Barack Obama's White House because it was so intellectual and so focused on problem solving and fact getting. But is there a lack of passion?"

The NBC journalist appeared with Chris Matthews, who strongly attacked the President's response to the disaster.

However, he, too, prefaced comments from the perspective of someone who only wants the best for Obama: "Well, I think people who watch it look and believe, I mean, who are friends of the President, want him to succeed, believe he has made a political calculation not to take ownership, to use a political term, of this problem, to leave it in BP's hands."

Once he got started, Matthews was far harsher than his colleague: "This is a national catastrophe and the President hasn't led this fight...There should be a vivid sense that we all have now, who's the President's top kick [sic] on this? Who's running the cabinet on this? Who, every day, is giving us a report on this? Who's the guy or woman who's doing this? There's no sense of that!"

A transcript of the May 27 News Live segment, which aired at 12:45pm EDT, follows:

ANDREA MITCHELL: Chris Matthews, let me bring you into this conversation, you and Eugene as well, about the politics of this. You know so well, there was a lot of criticism- and we're not analogizing this to Katrina- but there has been a lot of criticism in the past of decisions made on war and peace and on Katrina by the George W. Bush administration. And many people praised Barack Obama's White House because it was so intellectual and so focused on problem solving and fact getting. But is there a lack of passion? Is there an optical or political impact?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, I think people who watch it look and believe, I mean, who are friends of the President, want him to succeed, believe he has made a political calculation not to take ownership, to use a political term, of this problem, to leave it in BP's hands.

 They created the problem. They have to pay for it, eventually, we believe. Therefore, let them be seen doing the solution. Unfortunately, this is a national, a national and natural catastrophe. It's not a business problem and no matter how many dollars they get socked for in the courts, the problem is this damage has been done.

That oil is out in the Gulf. Millions of gallons are out there. As the senator says, millions of gallons are out there. We don't know where they're going. This is a national catastrophe and the President hasn't led this fight. The chain of command was raised yesterday in the papers. The chain of command.

 There should be a vivid sense that we all have now, who's the President's top kick [sic] on this? Who's running the cabinet on this? Who, every day, is giving us a report on this? Who's the guy or woman who's doing this? There's no sense of that! You know, he's got an admiral for the Coast Guard out there.

You got him out there. You've got Salazar out there. You got Chu on Energy. Each one of them sort of operating like shadow supervisors. We all know they're sidewalk superintendents. We all know BP's calling the shots.

I think it was a strategic decision by the President to let BP take the heat. And it's not going to work that way. The buck stops here, as Harry Truman said. This is a Harry Truman moment and he hasn't taken advantage of it.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org