Obama’s speech on the Gulf oil spill

President Obama always gives a good speech. So did President Clinton. Eventually I stopped listening to Clinton’s speeches because I came to realize they didn’t mean anything. I am approaching this point with President Obama.

I listened to his Oval Office speech tonight. He is going to make BP pay for everything. He is going to develop a Gulf Coast restoration plan. He is going to appoint a national commission to study the causes of the disaster. He is going to clean house in the Minerals Management Service.  And he is going to develop a plan for renewable energy – no details given, but he spoke highly of wind turbines.

What I’d like to hear is what he has done.  I’d like him to be able to say that the government can guarantee that no oil company today could get away with flouting safety and environmental laws as BP did.  I’d like him to be able to say that MMS officials who failed to do their jobs have been fired.  I’d like him to be able to say that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is functioning well.  I’d like him to be able to say what the federal government is doing in its own operations to use renewable energy and provide a market for it.  For myself, I’d like to be able to listen to a Presidential address and not have to wonder if it meant anything.

Click on this for the text of President Obama’s speech.

P.S. (6/16/10)

I never felt any disappointment with the younger President Bush because I never expected anything from him to begin with.  I thought of him as a ne’er-do-well who didn’t know anything, never accomplished anything on his own and never suffered any consequences from his repeated failures, but was always handed everything through his family’s influence.

I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the way President Bush seemed to rise to the occasion in the months following the 9/11 attacks, but that feeling turned to loathing as a result of the transparent lies used to justify the invasion of Iraq, and of the multiple failures of government thereafter.

Clinton and Obama were different. Both were individuals of humble origins who rose through their own efforts. Both had the intellect to understand what needed to be done, and both seemed to have the political skills to accomplish something. It seemed to me that, all other things being equal, Clinton did the right thing, but he always subordinated the good of the nation and, for that matter, of his party to his personal ambitions, and his ambitions to his appetites.

The nation wasn’t in crisis when Clinton took over, but it is now. Obama has a tough job.  The governmental administration he inherited was in a mess. But I refuse to admit that it is impossible to fix the mess. To admit that would be to accept that the nation is in irreversible decline – that we have passed the point of no return.

On PBS last night, David Brooks compared President Obama’s speech to President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats during World War Two. President Roosevelt spelled out exactly what needed to be done and what was being done, he said; he didn’t content himself with generalities as in Obama’s speech last night.

I would say our situation is more like that of the United States during 1940 and the early months of 1941. As with intervention in World War Two, we Americans haven’t yet made up our minds what we want to do about the current economic recession and long-term economic decline, nor about climate change, nor about our foreign wars. President Obama has a tough job – to lead public opinion without getting too far ahead.

I root for Obama to succeed. I would like for my criticisms to be proved wrong.  It is not too late for Obama to prove me wrong.  But so far his administration has proved little better than the Bush administration, and in some ways just as bad, and in some ways even worse.

P.P.S (6/16/10)

There was a note of weariness, almost of exhaustion, in President Obama’s tone that does not bode well for the rest of his term. It is understandable, in the light of multiple crises, relentless irrelevant personal attacks and his self-imposed mandate of reaching out to everyone. But he should have known what he was signing up for when he ran for office. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

Update (10/21/10)

The Obama / BP compensation plan seems to be working better than I thought it would.  Click on this for a Washington Post report.

Update (10/28/10)  Disregard the previous update.  Click on this and this instead.

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