Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Politics of Natural Disaster

When trying to grasp the significance of the Gulf of Mexico oil catastrophe and its impact on the Obama presidency, I evoked the Chinese concept of the mandate of Heaven. The term refers to a dynasty's political legitimacy, something that cannot be imposed but must be inspired by the leader's ethical conduct. In my post I suggested that if we were thinking as the Chinese do we would say that a leader who fails to act properly when faced with a natural disaster is losing the mandate of Heaven. Link here.

Of course, the challenge for any reader is understanding the complexity concept. For that several voices are often better than one. Other writers have gotten the same impression I have, and have articulated it somewhat differently, so I want to link some of their comments.

In this one Maureen Dowd describes how Obama has been flailing and failing at this crisis. She then goes on to describe the loss of political legitimacy, and thus she provides a different look at the problem. Link here.

And then Tunku Varadarajan offers his own analysis of the effects of the crisis in The Daily Beast. Even though he does not use the term Varadarajan sees Obama as being in the process of losing the mandate of Heaven, something that he considers very grave indeed. Again, a perspective that has some overlap with mine, but that is sufficiently different to be instructive. Link here.

Finally, Dick Morris, surely a partisan here, just wrote an article trying to make Obama's response to the oil spill a metaphor for his presidency. Link here.

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