Instant analysis of the President’s oval office speech on the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was a shotgun attempt at journalism. They missed their mark.
Due to a meeting, I missed President Obama’s address to the nation last night. I arrived home to hear a harangue of criticism of the President for not being specific, for being too aloof, or for not laying out the “big picture”, whatever that is.
I just watched a recording of the speech, plus the same analysis that I heard last night. The analysts, while pontificating about the President’s weak points, themselves lack little understanding of the problems in the Gulf and how to deal with them, and this was MSNBC for goodness sakes! Further, MSNBC lacks understanding of what an oval office speech is supposed to be about and what it might accomplish if it is effective.
Interestingly, none of the national newspapers or the Austin American-Statesman immediately leaped on the alleged short-comings of the President’s speech. Sure, they dutifully reported the loyal opposition’s, er, opposition. Even the usual suspects, the columnists, took time for a more studied response.
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post isn’t a shill for the administration. “Obama's overall message was simple: BP will pay -- and pay dearly,” Cillizza wrote in the “Morning Fix. “’We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused,’ Obama said at one point. Later, Obama said that he would tell BP chief executive Tony Hayward in their planned meeting Wednesday that the company must ‘set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness.’”
This morning (Wednesday, June 16, 2010), BP announced it will set aside $20-billion to pay victims. Analysts just Tuesday night questioned such a fund would ever happen.
The problem is that their interpretations raise suspicions and dilutes any support for the President. I’m not saying that they should be cheerleaders. No. They should offer perspective rather than rants, playing to the fears of those who may be watching and listening.
The American people have come to expect instant results, instant gratification. In this case, it's not possible, but the American people are impatient. With the BP well blow-out, we don’t have time for patience. More and more environmental damage is being done daily.
Part of the problem is prevention. Other administrations gave the OK to deep water drilling. Yesterday, the oil companies admitted that they were able to drill, but they did not know how to clean up the mess if something like this happened. It should have never happened, because they should never have been there. True, Obama recently approved limited drilling too, as he acknowledged in his speech. The drilling decision and its timing were ill-advised and unfortunate. That would have been valid criticism from the pundits.
I don't have any inside knowledge. I have been part of a presidential campaign, however. I believe there have been high-level meetings and discussions about how to deal with the blow-out from the beginning. In those meetings they found out what we heard from the oil companies yesterday. BP did start work on the one thing, the only thing that will work, drilling relief wells almost immediately. All other strategies--plans B, C, D and on have had limited success.
This is a battle no president can win, Democrat or Republican, experienced or inexperienced, because there is no immediate solution. The oil keeps flowing, the environmental disaster widens, people become angrier, and that anger has to be directed somewhere. So, Obama is beginning to take the heat, although a Gallup poll released Tuesday puts 75-percent of the blame on BP.
The network pundits say people want the President to be more passionate. Well, that's just not his way. He is deliberate. So, he's being blamed for being deliberate. I cannot believe, however, that he's been simply pacing back and forth in the oval office. He's been doing what he can, but there is so little that he can do.
He can call the CEO of BP, but the CEO of BP doesn't have a plan either. He can call out the Coast Guard and the National Guard, but they may not know what to do either. This has never happened before.
So, he is putting pressure on BP. He is. So, in the meantime, scientists and engineers for both the US government and BP are trying to come up with a "silver bullet" that might lead to instant results and instant gratification.
Oh yeah, as President Obama mentioned, there are also wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, recovery from recession, and not a few other things going on too.
Some will read this and conclude instantly that I’m just trying to pump up support for President Obama. No, this is a critique of what I saw on MSNBC—their hot rhetoric that they call analysis.
© Jim McNabb, 2010