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June 15, 2010

Reaction to President Obama's Speech

In the first Oval Office address of his presidency, President Obama pledged to fight the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico "with everything we've got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever is necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy."

Though Obama called for a "national mission" to transition to clean energy, he was vague on what he actually wants to see in a comprehensive energy bill. In doing so, Obama is just another president that has refused to ask Americans for the necessary sacrifice to finally achieve this greater national goal. He missed a golden opportunity.

Other reactions:

Josh Green: "What stood out was that for all his praise of the House climate bill and talk about the 'consequences of inaction' and so forth, not once did he utter the phrase, 'It's time to put a price on carbon.' And that suggests to me that this speech was primarily about containing the damage to his administration, and was not the pivot point in the energy debate that many people were hoping for."

Chris Cillizza: "This strategic approach is similar to how the president and his senior aides tackled the health care debate -- insisting that the time to kick the can down the road had passed. The question is whether that frame -- act now, or else -- is the right one in an electoral climate where members of the president's own party are already nervous about what awaits them in November."

Ezra Klein: "The optimistic take, at least for environmentalists, is that this is the language and approach Obama uses when he really means to legislate. 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."

Marc Ambinder: "Leaving out an explicit call for cap-and-trade was a deliberate choice, obviously. But Obama wants action on climate change, and the only way to wean our dependence off fossil fuels is to put a price on carbon. He did not make that explicit, as he has done before, to smaller audiences. He did not call upon Congress to make the political sacrifices necessary, and it may be difficult to reconcile his words, laced with an urgent tone, with the actions he is willing to put his weight behind."

Jonathan Chait: "The portion of the speech detailing the government's response to the Deepwater Horizon spill seemed effective, as did his explanation of his plan to toughen regulations on offshore drilling. The important part of his speech concerned how we would wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. This portion revealed just how much Obama is operating from a position of weakness."

Mark Murray: "Yes, the president's speech lacked specifics about how to achieve energy reform. (But who thought that legislative specifics would be the focus of a 15-minute address on the spill and how to respond to it?) ...And, yes, it probably contained too many war metaphors, and too much talk of presidential commissions. But if the goal was to assure the public that Obama is on top of the crisis, that BP will be punished, that Gulf residents will be compensated, and that energy reform is too important to kick down the road, it certainly met expectations."

Greg Sargent: "The intended audience of this speech was a general public wondering what the heck is going on with the spill and what the broader game plan is. This audience didn't need to hear the level of commitment to specific policy prescriptions that we all might have wanted."


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