When you look at the oils spill that is creating enormous issues to the southern regions along the Gulf, it is evident that the US Government has not been very effective in its management of the crisis.
But since I look at this with the eyes of a foreigner, I can empathize for Obama, and I cannot but notice that as per Kathrina or the simplest windstorm, the real issue is that the US does not have an organized way to address emergencies.
It is now easy in fact to attack Obama (I luv the cartoon below), but the US have not given themselves a structure to intervene with the required effectiveness; even crisis like this (any crisis!) are totally “delegated” to the private sector (the exception is when national security is at risk, because the military quickly take the opportunity to run it – they may lack specific experience, but they have an organization).
Most European countries have a permanent emergency management structure able to address issues in a (hopefully) more impactful way; in my perception is they definitely do a better job at that; where they fail is when emergencies happen cross-country (see the recent volcano ash mess).
The way to address this in a non-factional way should be to have a Federal Agency, much smaller than the average one (everything in the US is so bigger!) that could mobilize and grow very quickly when needed; the political debate should then focus on the Agency powers, and who should run it.
My recommendation: leverage ex-Presidents from both sides to give prestige and bi-partisanship; but do it…. (how could anyone trust BP to do anything but their interest? are you surprised that there are laws passed that limit oil companies responsibilities?).