The only thing that history will remember about President Barack Obama’s speech to the nation tonight is the date. Obama has called the oil spill his 9-11. If so he is offering the nation too little, too late. The oil spill happened on April 20, 2010. He finally got around to addressing the nation on June 15, 2010. Nothing he says or does now can erase that delay. It is fixed in history.
Remember 9-11? George Bush was criticized for getting spooked by the Secret Service who had him flying around in the air for hours to stay safe. Eventually the president awakened from his lethargy, assumed his role of leadership, told the well intentioned Secret Service to stuff it, and flew back to the dangerous White House where he addressed the nation from the Oval Office. It took hours for him to take charge, not weeks.
On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation the next day.
Although very late, many observers expected President Obama to strike a lofty theme that would transcend the crisis. He would appeal to the nation to strive for energy independence. It would be compared to John Kennedy’s call to land a man on the moon in one decade. Instead Obama seized on the crisis to pass another piece of his favored liberal agenda, his cap and trade plans. It is seen by many as a repeat of the bait and switch of the Stimulus Package. Obama had been elected to office, partially to resolve the mortgage crisis. But his Stimulus Package raided the Treasury for key constituencies and promoted favored liberal programs while not addressing even the easy fixes for thousands of suffering homeowners.
Obama’s speech talked about “windmills, insulated windows for homes, gas efficient cars” and then his voice trailed off as he mumbled some other vague reference to energy technology. None of the stated programs will solve the energy crisis. Unfortunately none of them will even make a dent. And of course, none of them will do a thing for the oil spill in the Gulf. Now, they are nice pay offs to industries and corporations who have helped finance his campaign. And his cap and tax will punish those who didn’t.
Obama’s speech is not much different from what he promised in the presidential campaign. If you are a liberal and you believe in higher taxes and you do not fear the transfer of wealth to the Middle East and you want higher prices for gasoline, at European levels as he once said, then you can applaud his speech. But you surely cannot applaud his timing.
The President’s strength is his calm, phlegmatic approach to a problem. It is a contrast to the blustering, decisive but impetuous nature of his predecessor. But our strengths can sometimes be our weaknesses. And this issue, this time has demanded decisiveness and leadership. And it still doesn’t have it.