The Speech

I must admit, this evening’s speech by Obama was rather odd. As one might have expected, there were the indicators of bureaucratic activity (number of boats, brains, etc. deployed to the Gulf). There was a predictable list of policy ideas (green economy, green jobs, technologies of the future) but nothing concrete. There were the folksy references to prayer (the blessing of the fleet). But the speech as a whole was poorly written and poorly delivered, most certainly far less than one might have expected given the President’s reputation for powerful rhetoric.

The best line of the night: “what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny – our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there. We know we’ll get there.”

It might have been more effective if the President’s speech writers could have drawn on the old Simon and Garfunklel song: “Slow down, you  drill too fast.  You got to make  resources last. Just kicking down the cobble stones. Looking for fun and feelin‘ groovy.”

Did I miss something?


Apparently I was not the only one who was rather underwhelmed. I find the assessments offered by the Left particularly stunning, given that only a short time ago Obama literally walked on water.

The Huffington Post referred to the speech as a “junk shot.” Post bloggers were highly critical. Jason Linkens concludes: “So that’s the plan: pray like you were a bayou fisherman. Fantastic.” In a similar vein, Andrew Winston viewed the speech as a “wasted opportunity,” concluding: “In the end, the President suggested we all “pray” for courage and the people of the Gulf. It’s truly a shame that that’s the only thing he asked us to do.” Joseph Palermo remains uncertain whether this will stand as an FDR style fireside chat or a redux of the Carter energy speech (absent the cardigan).

At WaPo, Ezra Klein offered a mixed review which ended: “The pessimistic take is that Obama shied away from clearly describing the problem, did not endorse specific legislation, did not set benchmarks, and chose poll-tested language rather than a sharper case that might persuade skeptics.”

Over at the Daily Beast, Tina Brown notes that Obama did not exhibit a hint of managerial competence: “The speech made me no less uneasy about the grotesque spaghetti of the org charts for BP and the government cleanup effort: both of which have terrifyingly unclear chains of command.” Yes, there were appeals to the way Americans have mobilized in past crises. But Brown observes: “Obama’s speech begged the question of why, if America always pushes its bounds to what it can do, 57 days into it the Gulf clean-up is still in such head-scratching chaos.”

The post-mortem on MSNBC (which I watched live) was devastating. Chris Matthews noted the lack of specificity and drew parallels to Carter. Keith Olbermann claimed “It was a great speech if you were on another planet for the last 57 days” and concluded “I don’t think he aimed low, I don’t think he aimed at all. It’s startling.”

Daily Kos posted an additional set of responses, most of which are quite harsh and some of which were actually insightful.

Any thoughts from loyal Pileus readers? What is your assessment of the oil-side chat?

4 thoughts on “The Speech

  1. Underwhelming on paper (didn’t see it on tv). I’m surprised he did this in the Oval Office without something bigger in mind.

  2. I must confess, that my strategy for following presidents is ignoring most of what they say as a waste of my time. As a result, I don’t watch special speeches, such as that last night, or State of the Union addresses. After all, if anything of value is said, I can simply read about in the Detroit News or Pileus the next morning.

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