Obama 2008: I ran a big campaign, so I can handle a Gulf emergency

It’s not mentioned much now, but in the late summer of 2008, a major hurricane, Gustav, was in the Gulf of Mexico and headed toward New Orleans, threatening a replay of the disastrous Katrina experience.  On September 1, 2008, Barack Obama, fresh from his Roman-colonnade speech on the final night of the Democratic convention in Denver, talked to CNN’s Anderson Cooper about Gustav and the Gulf.  The question: As president, could he handle an emergency like that?  Obama pointed to the size of his campaign and its multi-million dollar budget as evidence of his executive abilities.  “Our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years,” Obama said. That executive ability, he added, “indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect.”

Cooper asked the question in terms of Sarah Palin, who had just been selected for the Republican presidential ticket:

COOPER: And, Senator Obama, my final question — some of your Republican critics have said you don’t have the experience to handle a situation like this. They in fact have said that Governor Palin has more executive experience, as mayor of a small town and as governor of a big state of Alaska.  What’s your response?

OBAMA: Well, you know, my understanding is, is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We have got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So, I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years. And, certainly, in terms of the legislation that I passed just dealing with this issue post-Katrina of how we handle emergency management, the fact that many of my recommendations were adopted and are being put in place as we speak, I think, indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect.

Just for accuracy’s sake: Alaska’s budget in 2008 was $11.2 billion, and the state employed about 15,000 people, so while it was nowhere near the size of the federal government — no state is — it was considerably larger than the Obama campaign.  But the bigger point of the interview was Obama’s argument that his ability to run a good campaign proved he had executive ability, even though he had no executive experience.  Now we are in a situation that cries out for executive experience and leadership — ironically enough, in the Gulf again — and some who accepted Obama’s argument back in 2008 are rethinking things this time around.

Barack ObamaBeltway ConfidentialSarah PalinUS

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police officers speak with people while responding to a call outside a market on Leavenworth Street in the Tenderloin on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SFPD makes the case for more officers, citing Walgreens video

Most of us have seen the video. It shows a man filling… Continue reading

A 14-Mission Muni bus heads down Mission Street near Yerba Buena Gardens. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Pandemic experiments morph into long-term solutions for SF transit agency

The streets of San Francisco became real-time laboratories for The City’s public… Continue reading

San Francisco Public Bank Coalition advocates rallied on Feb. 5, 2019 as the Board of Supervisors considered supporting the creation of a public banking charter. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Debate reignites over San Francisco’s first public bank

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum was building for San Francisco to… Continue reading

Apprenticeship instructor Mike Miller, center, demonstrates how to set up a theodolite, a hyper-sensitive angle measuring device, for apprentices Daniel Rivas, left, Ivan Aguilar, right, and Quetzalcoatl Orta, far right, at the Ironworkers Local Union 377 training center in Benicia on June 10, 2021. (Courtesy Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters)
California’s affordable housing crisis: Are labor union requirements in the way?

By Manuela Tobias CalMatters California lawmakers introduced several bills this year that… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed spoke at the reopening of the San Francisco Public Library main branch on April 20. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli/Special to The Examiner)
SF reopening more libraries through the summer

After a handful of San Francisco public libraries reopened last month for… Continue reading

Most Read