Let's step back and remember a few things about what is going on. The BP deep water oil platform suffered a catastrophic explosion about 57 days ago. Since that time, an undetermined amount of oik has been spewing into the gulf waters near Louisiana. The oil spill is expanding and is expected to cover parts of the coast of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida when its through.
President Obama's most in-depth conversation with the press about this has been tagged, rightly or wrongly, with the sound bite of him explaining that he has been having meetings with experts, "so I know whose ass to kick."
Remind me, of our last two president's, he is supposed to be eloquent one?
Tonight, he spoke to us directly. Perhaps in the hopes that if he uses the teleprompter this time, eh would be able to convince the public that he is really doing a good job.
In the first three minutes of the talk, he manages to reference virtually every problem that this country currently faces. He commends the work of Americans handling those tasks, and conveniently forgets to say how his administration is hamstringing them. (The U.S. Military has been given a time limit that make sense only in political advisors mind. The nation is mired in a recession that Obama's spending plan seems to only be making more prolonged. etc.) He also manages to get a dig in at the George Bush (W., not H.W.) for Katrina with the reference that the oil spill is nothing like a Hurricane.
Let me pause to express what a bunch of drivel that is. They're both disasters. Neither is unforeseeable. If you are going to open up drilling rights, you ought to have a plan in place for when a spill happens, because nothing man made is fool proof.
President Obama then goes on to make his case that he is doing something. He refers to 30,000 people working on various disaster projects and that he has ordered the National Guard to be deployed to deal with the oil spill (or to process claims, because apparently that is what he thinks they are meant to do). And no matter what, he promises, more damage will be done to the Gulf coast before the siege is done.
At five minutes into the speech, he introduces the evil doers. He promises that tomorrow, 58 days since this frak-up began, he will be meeting with the heads of BP. Whats on the agenda? Apparently its just going to be about penalizing BP and dictating to them that BP will establish a sufficiently funded compensation fund for those affected by the company's "reckless" actions.
Leaving aside the issue that there could be a Fifth Amendment issue going on here (no illegal takings), what he says between minute 5 and 6:20 is interesting, especially in light of what he says below. He labels BP as reckless. Yet, he justifies his 6 month moratorium on all deep sea drilling (between 7:17 and 8:40) because no one knows exactly what went wrong. Its so nice to have president who will think first and then assign blame. BP could very well be the one at fault. However, to call their actions reckless, without doing any sort of investigation, seems to be a rush to judgment and an attempt at demagoguery. If BP were a person and treated like this, there would that it was racist, anti-semitism, or classicism. Apparently, in the Obama Administration its just good politics.
From 6:20 until 7:17 in the address, President Obama made the obligatory references to the destruction of the environment in general. And how he is making a commitment to restore the Gulf coast region. And that BP will pay for it. And just for good measure, the President threw in a gratuitous Hurrican Katrina.
It must be nice to have a limitless fund. BP is almost like George Bush now, except President Obama seems to believe it has a check book (or rather a cheque book) with limitless blank drafts that will cover whatever President Obama and his advisors can think up.
This is followed by the study that the President is going order into this disaster. I referenced it earlier, but wanted to touch on one more thing: it seems to be open ended. Which is great if you are one of those people assigned to the project. But perhaps it would have been better to put a deadline on the project. Say 3 months to produce a report. No reason why they should not have to work under a deadline. But apparently, if you are going to demonize an industry, you want to have as much time as possible to get it done in full. Or something like that.
Now at 8:40 into the speech, the President finally admits that there might have been some Federal hand in this mess. President Obama talks about the Minerals Management Service, describing it as a regulatory agency hostile to regulation. He compliments the work done by Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, for cleaning up corruption in Department of the Interior that was left over from the last decade (i.e. the Bush administration). However, President Obama says that the "pace of reform was just too slow."
Too slow? Because after more than a year and a half in office, it did not seem that they had foudn the time to replace the head of an agency which had become a major policy issue for the Obama Administration. Apparently, you can fire all the US Attorneys in a day, but firing the head of an agency takes more than a year and a half? And more than seven months after the MMS's oversight committee had found that the agency was failing in its duties. That would be eight months since the inspector general for the Department of the Interior issued a report that the MMS had employees who were accepting. And it would be almost two years since the story first broke that the MMS employees had "accepted gifts, steered contracts to favored clients, and engaged in drug use and illicit sex with employees of the energy firms."
The question should be asked: Why is Secretary Salazar being allowed to keep his job? Prior to the spill, the only thing that seemed to be done to clean up the mess that is MMS was to launch an ethics program for the agency. An ethics program. Great. It works really well up in Congress I hear. Which, by the way, was the previous employer of both Secretary Salazar and MMS Director, Elizabeth Birnbaum. Director Birnbaum, who was fired/resigned, previously had worked as a staffer on Capitol Hill. Did Secretary Salazar order a sweep of all those who were implicated in the various investigations? I cannot find any evidence that he did. So why, when BP is being castigated as it is, that President Obama is not demanding Secretary Salazar resign for failing to keep his house in order?
That's right. Its never the Obama Administrations fault. Its always the other guys fault.
At 10 minutes into the speech, President Obama talks about how drilling for oil entails greater risk. And that we could alleviate this risk if we would just expand our use of green energy, like China, so that we could also expand clean energy jobs. Basically, if we have clean energy, we wiull not have these kinds of catastrophes again. then he starts to talk about how small businesses are opening to meet the demand. Where the numbers exist to support this, I still cannot find. There are projections. There are hopes. There are wishes. But to date, this statement does not seem to be born out. Maybe he is right on this one. Maybe transition to clean energy will grow the economy, and "only if we seize the moment" and "act as one nation".
The last few minutes of the speech, President Obama merely lays on the platitudes. He makes his obligatory statements that he is open to ideas from both parties (which the more he says, the funnier it gets in a sad sort of way). Finally, he concludes the speech talking about how the US met the production needs of the Second World War and the Moon Race. Great. For most Americans, I don't think there is any question that if we have the capability. The question is whether we have the leadership.
Given the tone, and statements, of this speech this is not a leader. He is a politician. Too bad we elected him.
Harry Truman once said that the buck stopped with him. Apparently, the blame starts from President Obama.