President Obama just wrapped up his first nationally televised address from the Oval Office. The focus of the address was obviously the Gulf oil spill, but it contained a bit more than just that. Implicit in his speech was the selling of his leadership abilities and explicit was his call for a move away from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources. My reaction just a few minutes after the speech would be to give it a 5 out of 10, and I’ll tell you why.
Obama reiterated the liability of BP regarding damages both environmentally and economically. The creation of a fund administered by a third party to ensure all legitimate claims are paid is a good idea, certainly better than leaving it to BP or the government doing it. However, I am skeptical as to the ability of anybody to compensate individuals and businesses in a timely manner. Will we really be able to replace what are typically stable (or relatively so) streams of income with what I would presume will be one-time payments somewhere down the road? If I was one of those firms that gave out loans based on future payments a person is entitled to, I would be moving to the Gulf coast.
It seemed to me that Obama spent quite a bit of time touting his actions throughout the spill, but I’m not really buying what he is selling. He eviscerated the MMS and tried to sell us on his attempts to remedy that problem, while admitting he fell short. He gets points for owning up to not doing enough, but is it really that excusable? Personally, I voted for Obama because I believed him when he campaigned on bringing new attitudes and ways of doing things to Washington. That wasn’t really done, as MMS apparently demonstrates. He can apologize and take responsibility until the cows come home, but he didn’t quite live up to expectations in this regard.
I’ll wrap it up with his push for renewable energy to take a more prominent role in America. I agree with the President 100%. I agreed with him on this issue during the election. Once again, this isn’t something new from Obama but it still hasn’t happened. You’ll probably tell me that blame lays with Congress, and I’d say you’re right. Of course, Congress wasn’t enough of an obstacle to stop the health care reform…so why should this be different? I wouldn’t call energy policy more divisive or contentious than health care reform, so is it unreasonable to expect him to get some legislation passed already?
Polls are showing Americans disapprove of Obama’s leadership and handling of this whole disaster. A lot of this is out of his control…he didn’t cut the corners which led to the explosion. It’s not his policy which allows deep sea drilling even though there is clearly no remedy for disaster; he didn’t axe it but he gets the benefit of the doubt in assuming things were operating as they should. What can he do? Appoint a new “Czar” and head of the MMS? Done and done. Ultimately, I don’t think the dissatisfaction with Obama’s leadership is a result of his actions after the leak began, but rather a realization that things under Obama aren’t really that different. It seems more and more like business as usual in Washington, which is exactly what Obama campaigned against. So I hope President Obama takes this opportunity to be a little more demanding and forceful…the type of leadership I would have liked to see before the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.