Archive for Sunday, July 25, 2010

How has Obama the CEO handled the oil spill?

July 25, 2010

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— As chief executive officer of America Inc., Barack Obama has walked the factory floor when it comes to managing the federal response to the Gulf oil spill, going directly to front-line workers.

He’s used wiles respected in the boardroom in wringing a $20 billion commitment from BP.

But what was that talk about kicking butt? That’s so assembly line Ford Motor Co., circa 1930.

And why on Earth did it take him so long to talk to BP’s chief? A real CEO would have had Tony Hayward on the phone in a New York minute.

The president is not, of course, the head of a company. He’s accountable to the public in ways a chief executive is not to shareholders. Governance and politics differ from effective corporate management while sharing certain qualities.

But everyone wants to see the get-it-done ethic of the business world play out in the Gulf of Mexico and in the often confused lines of federal authority. A temporary cap on the ruptured well has held since it was attached on July 15; a permanent fix is expected in August. Since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, between 94 million and 184 million gallons have leaked into the Gulf.

The Gulf calamity, like the presidency itself, is a crash course in executive management for a man who came to office with no such experience to speak of. How’s he doing?

A mix of real-world CEOs and business theorists interviewed by The Associated Press sketched out qualities of a corporate executive and judged Obama by them:

President Barack Obama walks with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, center, Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel, rear, and others, after he met with residents affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill June 14 in Gulfport, Miss.

President Barack Obama walks with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, center, Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel, rear, and others, after he met with residents affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill June 14 in Gulfport, Miss.

Consult, don’t insult

Obama’s tough words about BP while refusing for weeks to talk to Hayward. The dispatching of the attorney general to the Gulf in a prelude to legal action. The keister-kicking threat. It all might make for good politics — or it might not.

To Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel Wire Products LLC of Baltimore, it was a failure of executive leadership. CEOs talk first and sue only if necessary, he says.

“Those are inflammatory strategies,” he says. “We don’t want people rushing to their lawyers at this moment. We want people to cap the oil well rather than the idea well.

“American factories don’t think this way. We try to come up with clever ideas of how to get out of this pickle. The first thing we should be focused on is solving problems, not placing blame.”

Greenblatt found it “stunning” that Obama let so much time lapse before meeting the BP chief after the spill. “I would have had Hayward in my office that afternoon.”

Dyke Messenger, CEO of Power Curbers, a manufacturer and exporter of concrete paving machines in Salisbury, N.C., said earlier meetings with BP leaders would have helped both sides push common goals for the response. Obama and the BP brass “are the ones who make decisions for those organizations, and if you’ve got common thought at the senior level then it flows down from there,” he said.

That common purpose would discourage Obama from publicly flogging BP — a tempting move given public anger toward the company. Messenger said both sides would have been more focused, earlier, on plugging the hole.

“He can’t make a deal with BP at the CEO level then turn around and hammer them,” Messenger said.

Getting with the people

Although Obama is big on “transparency,” the Oval Office lacks the glass walls favored by many in business as a way for bosses to stay connected with workers.

That’s why it’s been important for him to visit the Gulf and talk to response workers and citizens — his way of walking the factory floor, Messenger says.

“Sometimes they hit you between the eyes with a comment you just hadn’t thought of,” he says about the employees he encounters this way. “For Obama, that’s where being on the ground and talking to citizens makes a difference.”

Chain of command

For much of the time, the crisis has lacked a clear sense of who is really in charge. That’s a source of frustration, if not outrage, especially among Gulf leaders and residents.

Obama “created a sense of far greater control than the government actually has at this point,” said George G. Daly, dean of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

He questioned whether the flashes of temper from the president, as seen when he said he’d fire Hayward if he could, are useful and authentic.

“He has a cool, articulate, analytical style,” Daly said. “He traded it for this angry rhetoric that may not have suited him well in this particular interest.”

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 12 months ago

What's not said in this article is that for the last 30 years, since Reagan, the job of the president is to serve the needs of giant corporations, not hold them accountable.

For Obama, diehard seeker of the middle ground that he is, bucking that tradition with BP just wasn't his first impulse. It probably still isn't.

beatrice 6 years, 12 months ago

Tom, people like you and your fellow sore losers who constantly dismiss the majority of voters is what will jeopardize the future of this great nation. Obama was elected by a strong majority of the people. He wasn't anointed, he was elected. Why do you hate Americans and American elections when they don't go your way? Why do you put party above country?

Scott Drummond 6 years, 12 months ago

He hasn't done anything and anything he's done has been bad.

Another interesting glimpse in to the mind of the Shewmon.

Peter Macfarlane 6 years, 12 months ago

Tom,

It's going to be fun watching you eat your words when Sarah Palin becomes president.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 12 months ago

From your perch on the far right, I doubt that you can even get a glimpse of the middle ground, much less recognize those who attempt to inhabit it.

Obama's threat to "kick ass" came only after several weeks of not holding BP accountable, which is precisely what Republicans and DLC Democrats had established over the last 30 years as the proper role for a president.

He was attacked for this from both the left and the right. The left, because they honestly don't believe in letting corporations to run roughshod, and from the right simply because attacking is the only thing they know how to do.

His tough talk was decidedly not in his nature, but he had little option.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 12 months ago

Lots of criticism here but nobody offering any solutions. BP to this day has not deposited one thin dime into the $20 billion escrow account they promised. I don't know what anyone expected Obama to do, even the CEO's of big oil didn't offer any solutions when they were called to testify on the Hill. The solution for me is to ban off-shore drilling. It won't fix this mess, but it will prevent the next one. BP is due to start another deep-water drilling in Alaska this fall. I'd like to see the American people come together to stop this.This may be the first step. We've got to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. It won't be comfortable for any of us. Ending an addiction never is.

beatrice 6 years, 12 months ago

Guess he didn't have any brush to clear from his ranch.

What a shame he played golf, because you can never have conversations with people on serious issues while golfing. This is why bankers and business executives never ever go golfing.

camper 6 years, 12 months ago

A deep water oil well in Alaska is alarming. If one of those goes bad, it will be a logistical quagmire to move enough equipment up there. Especially during winter.

And maybe even more alarming are the 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the gulf. The cement and metal seals can deteriorate over time. How long? Nobody really knows, it could be 50 years to 1,000 years. And one of the standard industry lines that we always hear about "natural seepage" and oil that occasionally is found on shorelines, just might be coming from some of these wells. Nobody really knows because these rigs are generally not inspected.

This is someting we really should begin to consider. We could really be leaving an enourmous mess for future generations.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 12 months ago

I just heard on one of the cable news channels that there are leaks in off shore wells EVERY DAY off the coast of Nigeria. Why do we continually poison our precious oceans? Only one thing comes to mind...GREED.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 12 months ago

"We could really be leaving an enourmous mess for future generations." As bad as the staggering national debt the Community Organizer in Chief is helping to build?

camper 6 years, 12 months ago

Do you consider Social Security and Medicare pure Capitalism? Or are these the two "social programs" that aging baby boomers like?

camper 6 years, 12 months ago

Though I'm a bleeding heart, I do agree with you on a lot of things.

I'm going to throw one thing out there. I think it would be a good idea if we could phase in a voluntary SS and Medicare program. This would leave it up to the individual. He/she can choose the horse they decide to ride in on. Just complete a box on your w-4 form and decide for yourself. If you mark the box, you agree to payroll deductions and are eligible. If not you can get a higher paycheck and freely decide not to be dependant on these benefits.

independant1 6 years, 12 months ago

They'll be found beside plastic shopping bags and styrofoam cups.

jaywalker 6 years, 12 months ago

Too the question: poorly. Way too slow with any kind of action, the refusal of help from other countries is baffling (why say no to ships that are designed for exactly this type of disaster? Was it a 'union' issue? And if so, screw 'em! The Gulf isn't NYC, where a soda spill has to be called in to the 'appropriate' teamsters in order for some Bounty to be applied), requests for help from those in the know was allowed to be completely wrapped in red tape, and then the 'talk tough' gobblety gunk was disingenuous at best. Not his finest hour.

Mike Ford 6 years, 12 months ago

I grew up in Lake Charles, LA between 1976 to 1979. I saw the oil rush of the seventies living in the middle of the cancer triangle. Money makes people put aside rules. Greed makes people attack regulations. Regulations attempt to prevent oil spills. Republicans main platform is deregulation. Why did Christine Whitman quit the EPA during the Bush administration? because the dumblicans watered down or neutered the regulations. These dumblicans use deregulation as one of their political platforms to the rubber stampers and big business.

Mr. Obama had to sidestep the backlash from the government involvement with the banks and the cars. He like us trusted BP to do the right thing after the fact. The dumblicans were ready to pounce on his every decision even though the dumblicans made the decision to deregulate in the first place. He has been in a no win situation and has stayed iengaged in the event and he has acted tough with BP it's funny how much of this is like the split between Teddy Roosevelt and the big business dumblicans of old. The dumblicans are going to have to realize that they will be held accountable for their misdeeds. The 2008 elections were a referendum on their misdeeds and the only way they're surviving now is by outrage with no platform whatsoever beyond the same non working bs they've sold before to the rural masses and the church people before.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 12 months ago

When faced with great challenges it is sometimes good to ask yourself what other talented and wise men might have done in the same position.

So I asked myself what the Bush/Cheney administration would have done with the BP oil disaster and came up with some ideas.

1) Invade Venezuela. 2) Napalm the Amazon 3) Put $20 Billion worth of taxpayer money into a special fund to help BP through the crisis. 4) Tell the fishermen in New Orleans to head for the Super Dome. 5) Create an oil czar and starting handing out leases in Alaska. Put Sarah Palin in charge. First on the agenda would be a closed door meeting among oil CEOs on Hayward’s yacht. 6) Blame the environmental movement. 7) Blame Pelosi and Reid

independant1 6 years, 12 months ago

1, 5, 6 Rationale - those are my fav pick 3 lotto numbers

What all of us know put together don’t mean anything. Nothing don’t mean anything. We are here for a spell and pass on. Anyone who thinks that civilization has advanced is an egotist. (Will Rogers)

purplesage 6 years, 12 months ago

tuschkahouma - Why must you resort to cutesy adaptations to attempt to be insulting to those with whom you disagree? "dumblicans" -- give it a break It isn't as cute or as clever as you think.

Obama did little other than his arrogant pontificating while the oil surged into the Gulf. He siezed a phot-op now and then, took on that sickenly directive tone that he uses to tells us how he is going to fix everything, and threw around a little oil rig language. Very fitting for a sitting president. Which is what he did - sit.

And how is it the job of the presidency to "direct" such a thing. Is he an expert on oil, engineering, or any of that?

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 12 months ago

In fact, Obama from the very beginning has never received the respect a President of the United States should receive in a difficult job.

The Republican slime machine has been in full operation since before he took the oath of office.

The people of the United States deserve congressman who act with dignity.

Where will we find them in this mud wrestling match?

mr_right_wing 6 years, 12 months ago

How has Obama the CEO handled the oil spill?

.....about as sluggish and sloppily as George W. handled Katrina, except the risk of human life is less in this instance.

Both Bush and obama get an F.

beatrice 6 years, 12 months ago

"except the risk of human life is less in this instance."

Talk about your understatement!

Mike Ford 6 years, 12 months ago

purplesage..until these dumblicans admit their part in this mess and many others and start realizing that working together does everybody good bad things will continue to happen.. oh wait a minute what was I thinking... dumblican plan... run everything into the ground because in 2008 the dumblicans had no answers and were more than happy to turn this mess over to Mr. Obama and use it against him to try and win midterm elections because it's always more important to win elections than give a hoot about the public. Especially if a party tries to sell the same warmed up crap over and over again over three decades and still has no answers. FOR THE RECORD, Herbert Hoover had no answers either. He and Charles Curtis didn't want FDR making them look bad. They didn't care anymore than Bush did about what the public thought. Those two didn't want to be shown up by FDR. So they reviled him with the same contempt somebody like Shewmon does with Obama. I guess if another party can't bring anything new to the table, they may as well sound and act like haters and encourage the politically and culturally confused tealicans to do the same. Simple equasion, GOP pushes drilling at all costs, deepwater rigs are installed by such trustworthy contract skimmers like Haliburton, GOP waives EIS requirements under Bush corners are cut, well explodes, eleven men are killed and millions of gallons of oil spill. My question is this; under Bush any time there was spill in Texas City at a refinery or an oil plant was shut down and a couple of thousands of barrels of oil weren't delivered, gas prices went berzerk. Bush looked the other way while his lobbying clients who made closed door energy policy with Cheney made millions from people like me with inflated prices. How did that happen then and with hundreds of millions of barrels of oil leaking away the prices didn't rise that much. now? I guess Bush isn't around to allow the financial pillaging of the public, but his policies are.

independant1 6 years, 12 months ago

Easy answer, president Obama didn't handle the spill very well. (gratuitous pun)

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