Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My take on President Obama's Oval Office address of June 15, 2010

[UPDATE: BREAKING: BP agrees to place $20B in an escrow account to handle claims of Gulf coast families and businesspeople.]

My sense was that President Obama delivered a very general overview in his speech last night. But there are good reasons for this.

We still don't know enough specifics about a) what took place and who bears what level of responsibility--in other words, I think some serious criminal investigations are likely being drawn up as we speak, but the pressure to "say something, do something!" does not afford the President the luxury of a Scotland Yard or an FBI in taking the necessary time to do all the investigations before coming to the public; he did have to at least say something. And b) what, exactly, the extent of the damage to the environment and economy will be, because the damned oil geyser is still spewing, full-force, in the Gulf, making it impossible to state the kind of firm numbers lay people are calling for--and let's face it, most of the country (including you and I, Dear Reader, to a fair extent) are lay people when it comes to calculating projected damage figures. Hell, the damned oceanographers, economists, and environmental engineers, even, are scratching their heads, as this disaster truly is unprecedented in a number of ways.

So, no, President Obama did not--could not--go big last night.

Sure, he could've spouted a bunch of platitudes to make everyone feel better--to make us feel as though vengeance would surely be ours, and soon. To a certain degree, he did attempt to inject some positivity into the speech in terms of our country meeting the challenge of developing alternative energy sources like wind and solar. But the politics of that process are extremely complex, and I promise you, had he gotten more detailed about them, people's eyes would have glazed over. That much I am getting a sense of, as Mr. Litbrit is, right now, busy writing up a grant proposal for some state funding for his alternative energy (wind and solar) program that he's installing at his farm, a state program that is part of the President's immense push, at the federal level, to get the country off fossil fuel dependency.

Trust me, it is happening, just not on the front pages of the newspapers and blogs. Yet. It is happening, but the mechanics are complicated in the extreme; it's deeply un-sexy copy, and sadly, it would fly high over the heads of the very people who most need to be convinced that oil=bad, wind and solar = good.

Once there are more flagship projects, like Mr. Litbrit's, to which our government can point and say, See, here's how it works..., you'll hear and see more in the media, and more from the President.

Let's not forget the fact that as much as we hate BP right now--and no-one hates them more than I--President Obama could not and would not have come out with the cowboy swagger, threatening to "smoke 'em out". Nor would he invoke empty, meaningless rhetoric, lumping this dreadful, criminal company into a general category of evildoers and calling it the Axis of Oil. His chief responsibility is to us, the people of this country, and I believe he sees the best way to serve our interests is to make sure the environment along the Gulf states' shores gets thoroughly restored, and that the people and towns whose jobs and economies were destroyed are, as he says, "made whole".

Toward that end, empty, warmongering rhetoric that demonizes a company everyone already loathes and resents will not make it any easier to force them to cooperate and pay in full.

Atheists and agnostics as some of us are, we ought to be a lot more comfortable than we would seem to be with the notion that sometimes, there are no readily available explanations or solutions, certainly not immediately, and certainly not while the data is still coming in (or, as it were, gushing out).

Bear this in mind, too: the media are always interested in the bleeding lead, because in the news, as in the summer box office lineup, *boom-boom* and flying glass stuff sells--how many headlines did the President's "ass-kicking" comment make, again? Whereas thoughtful, complex solutions laced through with a we-still-need-to-wait-and-see attitude piss them off. They all wanted fireworks last night, and they were denied that explosive denouement. Poor babies.

I want criminal charges brought, and I've made my case for same. As for the cleanup and payment of damages, I, too, need to wait and see exactly how much worse the oil mess and the money mess will get. And when that information is in, I want the President to go after every last penny.

My take, for what it's worth.

D.N.T. 6/16/2010

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