WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The worst U.S. oil spill in history is testing President Barack Obama’s famed ability to remain cool under pressure. No, he’s not losing it, but many Americans seem to wish he would.
“If there’s any one time to go off, this is it, because this is a disaster,” film director Spike Lee urged Obama in an interview on cable news network CNN.
Obama’s unflappability earned him the nickname “No Drama Obama” on the 2008 campaign trail, and aides cultivated that reputation as he dealt first with a financial crisis and then the worst recession in decades in his first year in office.
From day one, Obama has sought to show that his administration is on top of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, mobilizing ships and military personnel and sending members of his cabinet to inspect clean-up efforts along the coast.
But opinion polls show many Americans are unhappy with his handling of the six-week-old spill, and Gulf coast residents have complained that the federal government has been slow to act and too dependent on energy giant BP for solutions.
Obama is facing criticism that he has not shown enough emotion about a disaster that threatens an ecological catastrophe and the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen along the Gulf Coast.
He has repeatedly said he is angry and frustrated at BP’s failure to stanch the, but many Americans apparently want him to show it.
Influential New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called Obama “President Spock” in a May 29 column, criticizing his “inability to encapsulate Americans feelings.”
Obama defended his calm demeanour in an interview with CNN’s Larry King on Thursday.
“I am furious at this entire situation,” he said, but added “I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yelling at people, but that’s not the job I was hired to do.”
“My job is to solve this problem, and ultimately this isn’t about me and how angry I am.”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs echoed that in his daily briefing on Thursday.
“If jumping up and down and screaming were to fix a hole in the ocean, we’d have done that five or six weeks ago,” he said.
In a briefing last week, the spokesman was asked how he knew the president was, as Gibbs put it, “enraged” by the disaster.
“Can you describe it? Does he yell and scream? What does he do?” a reporter asked.
“He has been in a whole bunch of different meetings — clenched jaw — even in the midst of these briefings, saying everything has to be done,” Gibbs replied.
Editing by Frances Kerry