The speech did, however, seem to me to achieve what it was supposed to:
signal strong presidential engagement with this now seemingly permanent
blight on the world and our consciousness. For those who need their hand
held as we wait for the relief wells that have always been the only
real solution, I guess this is important. But it missed an opportunity
to explain who exactly is in charge now
I am really not entirely sure what the point to this Oval Office address
was! Were you looking for something that resembled a fully-realized
action plan, describing a detailed approach to containment and clean up?
Or perhaps a definitive statement, severing the command and control
that BP has largely enjoyed, in favor of a structured, centralized
federal response? Maybe you were looking for a roadmap-slash-timetable
for putting America on a path to a clean energy future? Well, this
speech was none of those things
I was disappointed in the content. I might have set my expectations too
high, but on a sheer policy and politics level, he really missed a big
historical opportunity here to outline bold new goals considering the
events of the last 50 days. Instead, he only made a weak pitch for the
Senate to pass the House bill. Invariably, this bill will be neutered
and then filibustered vigorously.
President Obama, in his first-ever primetime address from the Oval
Office, did not mince words. He didn’t have time to — the speech was
one of the shortest I think I’ve ever seen from Barack Obama, clocking
in at 17 or 18 minutes. But although he didn’t take a lot of time, he
covered a lot. Of particular note was the directness of his language,
which at times could even be described as “forceful.”
I thought Obama’s address was fine. Not too hot, not too cold, but an evenly pitched pledge to Americans (and the world) that he will hold BP to account and change the regulations that allowed this disaster to happen. I thought that Obama’s rejection of the the ‘deregulate everything’ philosophy was important, as it marks a real change in government ideology towards business. Obama also laid out the pressing need to change to a clean energy economy, and while he was short on specifics, the point of the speech was to reassure the nation that he gets it, not inundate them with policy details.
I’m not sure what people were expecting, but given it was a short ‘fire side’ chat type speech, it was absolutely fine.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.