It must have seemed like a simple equation.
The public was getting angry at the Obama Administration's apparent inability to have any impact whatsoever on the still-raging oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Worse, Obama's renowned calm demeanor seemed to be signaling a casual attitude toward the tragedy.
So, it was time for the Anger Show. Suddenly, we were getting daily sound bites about how furious Obama is. About how he'd fire the BP CEO if he could. About figuring out "whose ass to kick." It ranged from scripted to unseemly, but never seemed to hit whatever mark was being sought.
In ordinary circumstances, a politician can't go wrong attacking a company, particularly an oil or energy company. More than a few Sacramento careers were enhanced by fact-free bashing of Texas energy companies during the state's energy crisis a decade ago.
But this time it's more complicated. After a week of attacks on BP's integrity and share price, our allies across the Atlantic are getting irked. With pension funds there heavily invested in the company once known as British Petroleum, UK politicians are firing back at what they see as scapegoating and piling on.
Here's a snippet from former Trade Minister Lord Norman Tebbitt (courtesy of Time.com):
The whole might of American wealth and technology is displayed as utterly unable to deal with the disastrous spill -- so what more natural than a crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan political presidential petulance against a multinational company?"
With a new prime minister on Downing Street and growing unrest over the UK role in Afghanistan, this can't be dismissed as just talk. Every political or communications move in a time of crisis comes at a price, and sometimes that price isn't apparent until it's too late.