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June 21st, 2010
11:38 AM ET

Opinion: To stop political damage, stop the spill

Bruce E. Cain
Special to CNN

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/06/19/cain.obama.spill.fallout/tzleft.bruce.cain.courtesy.jpg caption="Cain: Presidents get more blame, credit than they deserve for events beyond their control" width=300 height=169]

Presidents rarely command their fate completely but sometimes they are more helpless than usual. Such is President Obama's situation at the moment. His Nobel laureate Energy Secretary and other government scientists lack the expertise and tools to stop the Deepwater well from leaking oil into the Gulf and must depend on BP to finish the job.

While this is the reality Obama must accept, it is not the image he wants to project. He is constrained by two facts about American public opinion. The first: People do not want to believe that America, the greatest nation is the world, is powerless in the face of crisis.

The second: Presidents get far more blame and credit than they deserve for circumstances that are largely beyond their control, like economic conditions or natural disasters. When events are going well, that is a good thing: but when they are not, it is the ultimate political nightmare.

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Filed under: Gulf Oil Spill • Opinion • President Barack Obama
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