) -- President Obama's speech about the
oil spill last night was all wrong.
First, he's late. Second, he hit the same notes he always hits. Third, he picked the wrong venue.
Let's tackle those in reverse order. Why did Obama pick this speech to be his first address from the Oval Office? If he was trying to look all presidential and powerful, he failed. He looked detached and distant -- far removed from the nastiness that is spilling onto the shores of the Gulf Coast.
Hearing the words come out of his mouth, I couldn't help but notice how much it sounded like every other major speech he's delivered. The formula is obvious:
-- Express outrage
-- Identify a villain
-- Issue ultimatum
-- Outline grand policy vision
-- Call on both parties to rally behind vision
-- End on positive note about America overcoming any challenge
Sound familiar? Remember the outrage about the evil insurance industry that led to health care reform? Or how about the outrage about the evil banking industry and the financial reform push.
When the general outrage hasn't been enough, Obama has resorted to finger- pointing. His administration singled out
to vilify as the urgency behind financial reform began to ebb.
While initially reluctant to take a stand against Big Oil, BP is such an obvious villain that Obama finally came around to giving energy reform a higher priority on his first-term agenda. It's a delicate matter, considering Obama approved more offshore drilling just before the Gulf Oil spill prompted him to reverse the decision.
So now, finally, the president is tackling the underlying oil policy questions that have plagued the U.S. for decades. His appeal, however, lacked the conviction we saw in the health care reform debate.
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The rhetoric is the same: "unleash America's innovation and seize control of our own destiny," "grow our economy and create millions of jobs," "a new future that will benefit all of us."
But Obama's speech also conceded that "the transition away from fossil fuels is going to take some time," and "there are costs associated with this transition."
That doesn't sound like drawing a line in the oil-soaked sand.
The fact that it's taken so long for Obama to use the BP oil spill as a rallying cry for new energy policy speaks volumes. Obama must realize that our dependence on oil is too great -- because oil is part of so much innovation from biotechnology to fabrics, plastics and more.
We're not ready to give up our cars -- symbol of independence that they have become. We're not ready to give up our conveniences. We're not ready to change our lifestyles.
We just want our beaches clean and our shrimp unsoiled.
And we want cheap gas.
No need to worry about real energy policy change. Obama isn't showing the conviction necessary to overcome those realities.
--Written by Glenn Hall in New York.
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