'World News' Political Insights: President Obama's Change Looking Like More of the Same

President battles perceptions on Gulf oil spill, Sestak.

ByABC News
May 30, 2010, 3:34 PM

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2010— -- For a president who promised change, the danger now is more of the same.

The environmental calamity stemming from the BP oil spill is challenging President Obama's leadership in a fundamental way, threatening to undermine the sense of competence the president has sought to project.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the White House's purported job offer to Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., to keep him out of a Senate race is gnawing at Obama from another direction, depicting him as a business-as-usual politician who was slow to own up to an uncomfortable truth.

The chorus of critics of the president's handling of the Gulf Coast crisis is only growing, with leading voices on the left leading the way -- and, increasingly, invoking comparisons to President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina.

This is more than anger at Obama for not acting more quickly, or with more emotional power. It reflects a growing concern among the president's allies that a key attribute that fueled his political rise is leaking along with the oil spilling into the ocean.

On the BP disaster, the president risks looking like part of the problem -- the head of an unfeeling and red-tape-wrapped federal government that has a cozy relationship with a tarnished oil company -- instead of the leader who promised "never again" to these same residents of the Gulf.

His challenge will be to show both emotion and firm leadership in the weeks and months ahead, even with no end in sight to the leak and a clean-up that will last decades. It won't be enough to be seen as effectively marshaling the resources of the federal government, though that would be a start.

With fingers pointing in every direction, the president will need to show that he's not just in charge but also on the side of the people of the Gulf. That's no easy task, given the growing frustrations of local officials in the region, and the hardening political storyline of a president who seemed not to grasp the urgency of the moment.

Toss in a president whose resting heart-rate is just different than your usual human being -- we're talking about "no-drama Obama" here -- and the political path is messy indeed.