Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mission Unaccomplished!

Tonight’s Presidential address from Barack Obama was the first time this President has formally addressed the nation on the Gulf Oil disaster. It was a chance for him to finally grab the bull by the horn and let the country know how terrible he felt for the pain and suffering the people of the Gulf coast have had to endure and to chart a clear course ahead to ensure that a disaster of this magnitude will never happen again. It was a chance for him to finally be the commander in chief that the nation so desperately needs and, as Thomas Friedman pointed out two weeks ago, galvanize the country, like Kennedy did in 1961 when he pledged to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, to end our dependence on fossil fuels. It was also a chance for him to assume the responsibility, not for causing the disaster in the first place, but for the poor response of the government agencies tasked with the job of coordinating the cleanup.

On all counts this was a dreadful night for this president. Yes, he did mention the Cap in Trade legislation that the House passed, but he missed a golden opportunity to connect the dots by not only failing to mention that the legislation has stalled in the Senate but also stopping short of talking specifically about the climate change component in his speech.  He again lacked any sense of empathy for the people who have been ravaged by this tragedy, coming across more like a news correspondent reporting on a disaster than a caring and supportive leader. And where is the anger the nation is feeling towards the actions of British Petroleum?

It is laudable that the President has called for BP to put aside a trust fund to pay not only for the cleanup but for subsequent damages sustained by those affected, but how about demanding that BP pay for it. This president looked more like the reluctant visitor at a funeral parlor paying his respects to his best friend’s mother and searching for the right words to say.

And what is this "we" stuff?  "We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long as it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused."  Have you ever heard of the word "I" Mr. President?  "Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny," you said.  Tonight would've been a good opportunity for you to seize control of this tragedy.  You could've said the following: "I've made some mistakes and I deeply regret them.  I assure you that I will see to it that your coast line will be fully restored.  And when I meet with the head of BP tomorrow I am going to demand that they pay not only the cleanup costs but every single claim against them for damages.  So help me God.  It may have been their rig and it may be their oil, but I'm your president and I have your back America!"

Of course when he did manage to connect some of the dots he got his signals crossed. There is an old saying: The devil is in the details. When he needed to get specific he was too general and detached; when he needed to express remorse or anger, he opted for analytical explanations that did little to ameliorate the pain. In short he was bass ackwards. For a man who did such a wonderful job communicating a vision for America during his campaign, Obama couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag tonight.

Stunning!

No anger, no empathy, no vision. In essence we watched the leader of the free world speak for seventeen minutes and say little if anything that could offer even a sliver of hope for those affected by this tragedy and a plan of attack for a nation caught in the grip of the worst addiction any people have ever been afflicted with.

Mission Unaccomplished, Mr. President!

1 comment:

Linda Hope said...

I agree with you, Peter. I kept wanting to put my hands through the screen to shake some passion into him. I certainly don't want an overly-emotional president who verges on acting irresponsibly, but I simply don't get a sense that he cares all that much. He seemed controlled, analytical, and far removed from the lives of the real people directly affected by this mess.