Grading the president
We asked some of our contributors to grade the president’s Oval Office speech on the Gulf oil spill. You can leave your own grade in the comments or via our poll.
Jim Saft, Reuters columnist
The military rhetoric, the spill “assaulting our shores,” is bogus and dangerous. I can see why Obama would want to use metaphors of attack and defense: when the nation is attacked people rally round the executive and poll numbers go up in a satisfying way. That is why this is both a much abused and increasingly dangerous technique among presidents, and not just Obama. Now that we have a War on Greasy Beaches to supplement the War on Terror. What next? Do I hear the distant sound of marching feet as an army marshals for a War on Unemployment or a War on High Fructose Corn Syrup? Spare me.
Marc Levinson, senior fellow in international business at the Council on Foreign Relations
He did a good job of defining what public policy needs to do with respect to regulating offshore oil; if he’d said this a month ago, I’d give him an A. He deserves extra credit for admitting that the transition to clean energy will have costs, something that government officials rarely concede.
Bernd Debusmann, Reuters columnist
Well-delivered speech, good summary of what happened. But he made a prediction that may well fall short of what can be done – capturing 90% of the oil within weeks or months. What I liked most was his take on the scale of the disaster and his reference to what the U.S. managed to do during World War II — stand together and build enough tanks — and the success in sending a man to the moon. What he lacked was an explanation of what would happen in the short term to the thousands of people involved in drilling. Setting up a commission to study this is hardly likely to reassure those whose livelihood is threatened.
Gregg Easterbrook, Reuters columnist
“We shall fight the oil on the beaches, we shall fight the oil on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets…” Okay, President Barack Obama didn’t go completely 1940 Winston Churchill http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=1940-06-04a.787.0. But what’s with all the military references – “battle plan,” “siege,” tank production in World War II. Huh?
This is an oil spill, not a war. Presidents hide behind we’re-at-war rhetoric when they want to avoid criticism – hiding behind we’re-at-war rhetoric was George W. Bush’s worst fault. Now we see this in Barack Obama, over as little as an oil spill!
Yes the spill is a serious problem, especially if you live on the Louisiana coast. It is no “tragedy” (said twice) nor even remotely “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced” (is Katrina, just five years ago, already forgotten?). Washington always wants to make problems sound worse than they are, because this can justify more money and power for Washington. But Obama’s going overboard by speaking of the Gulf spill as some unimaginable calamity. A few years from now it may be hard to tell where the spill happened! About two years passed before it was hard to tell where the Exxon Valdez spill happened. However worrisome, the current Gulf spill doesn’t even belong on a list of the top 10 problems facing the country today.
PS #1: Obama said Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen has “almost forty years of experience responding to disasters.” Huh? What? There have been that many disasters in the last 40 years?!??!?
PS #2: The president spent too much time on politically-correct green energy rhetoric yet barely mentioned his administration’s leading energy achievement – mandating a one-third improvement in car and truck MPG numbers. Higher MPG standards are a tremendous accomplishment for Obama and far more important than the pie-in-the-sky ideas the Democratic left pressures the White House to emphasize.
(Image of words used in speech courtesy of http://www.wordle.net/)