Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21: Obama Can Learn From Another President's Mistake

By Sylvia Gurinsky

We've all heard about the young president of the United States who listened to what he thought was the best advice, went forward with his decision and wound up with a disaster.

No, not President Barack Obama with his now-abandoned decision to expand offshore oil drilling and his response during the first weeks after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

This reference is to President John F. Kennedy and his decision in 1961 to go ahead with the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Kennedy gave the green light to a Central Intelligence Agency plan to invade Cuba that was developed while his predecessor, President Dwight Eisenhower, was still in office. But there was plenty wrong with the plan. More than 100 members of Brigade 2506 were killed; more than 1,000 were captured and held as political prisoners for a year and a half. In a speech to the nation, Kennedy took full responsibility; he showed how much he'd learned his lesson a year and a half later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Obama's bad advice in crafting the expansion of oil drilling came both from his own Department of the Interior and from Big Oil. It also came from his attempts to appease Republicans. During the first month after the Deepwater Horizon spill, Obama relied too closely on the idea that BP executives were showing good sense - despite persistent evidence to the contrary.

But Obama needed to learn the same lesson here that he learned during the health care battle: Give 'em hell, Barry. He needed to show leadership and forget about bipartisanship. Sometimes they don't go together.

He seems to be starting to get it, given his Oval Office speech last week.

Presidents don't often get either learning curves or credit for learning lessons - except from historians. But they're not perfect; they do make mistakes - and the country ultimately benefits when they do learn their lessons. Hopefully, Obama has learned his.

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