There was a lot of anticipation heading into President Obama's oval office address last night. We wanted facts and figures, we wanted to know what the plan was for BP, for the oil still leaking, for the oil already in the Gulf. Some people wanted tough words, some people wanted details. All in all, though, we were left feeling a bit let down.
It's not that he didn't provide information. He told us
- He "assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers" immediately after the rig sank, which contradicts naysayers that he dithered.
- They've "directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology", showing leadership in the face of BP's incompetence.
- Efforts will "capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well" until the relief well is drilled.
- He restated that "we will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused" and "do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover".
- We now have "nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and clean up the oil"
- "Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf"
- He's "authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast"
- Over "five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water"
- They've "approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try to stop the oil before it reaches the shore"
- They're "working with Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines"
So that's all good information, right? So what was the problem? The problem was that he blurted all that out in the first 5 minutes. After that, he went into vague generalities and "hopey-changey" feel-good pep talk. He finished it up - not with a recapping of efforts taken and plans to deal with the situation - but with prayer talk. While that may resonate with a certain segment of the population, it does nothing to reassure those who prefer we use science and creative thinking to solve our problems.
He did mention a "long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan", which is tantalizing, but provided no details other than it will be a collaborative effort with federal, state, and local authorities and experts.
He also mentioned that he "established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place." That's good, but again - a gem buried in the fluff.
He also took a swipe at Republican "business-first" policies, saying "[the MMS] has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility". He went on to mention that Ken Salazar was tasked with cleaning it up, but it hasn't happened fast enough, so they are bringing in a new person to head up that agency.
After all that, he went on a long rambling discussion about the need for getting off oil. It had the feel of a campaign promise, more than a specific plan of action. It drowned all the previous information in a sea of words. The capper was the aforementioned religious pandering.
Going back and reviewing the speech, I am somewhat reassured that he did indeed cover a lot of information. It just didn't feel
that way watching it in real time. It felt unfocused and finished weak. Coming from such a great orator, it was a disappointment.