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Special Report

Hayward, Obama and the Silliness of Politics

The flap over how BP's Tony Hayward spent his weekend and how President Obama spent his are a classic case of the silliness of modern politics and the coverage of it.

Hayward, after all, had just been replaced as the point man in the Gulf oil spill response. President Obama, despite claiming that he is in charge of the situation, has shown there is nothing much he can do to stop the leaking oil either. So why would anybody care how either of these two men spent their Saturdays? Hayward was at a sailboat race, and Obama on the golf course.

The reason for the controversy is that so much depends these days not on how important people actually do their jobs, but on whether they strike the  proper posture. Thus George W. Bush was attacked because he flew over the Gulf right after Hurricane Katrina but did not actually land there until later. Obama was criticized for not saying enough about the oil spill soon enough, and for not going there immediately.

There is no evidence that earlier visits or comments by the two presidents would have made the slightest difference in the two situations. And it would certainly not have helped matters in the Gulf if Tony Hayward had spent his Saturday at home doing nothing, though it might have kept Rahm Emanuel from criticizing Hayward for sailing on a day when Emanuel's boss played golf. That would have been good for everyone; Hayward, Emanuel and Mr. Obama himself.