Obama’s Gulf Oil Spill Speech, Deconstructed

We open this dissection by saying that last night’s 18-minute address was poorly received. When you’re Barack Obama and you are shredded by Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman, it’s a good sign things aren’t going well.

Locally, the New Orleans Times-Picayune straddles the fence with a mildly disapproving editorial, noting that Obama’s address was two speeches – “one to Louisiana and another to everybody else.” The T-P’s editorial notes that:

The president said he understands that his moratorium “creates difficulty” for us, but he wasn’t very convincing. He’s right when he says the oil is producing anxiety that we’ll lose our way of life but seems unaware that his moratorium does the same thing.

On the conservative side, it’s less of a surprise that Obama’s speech was a lead balloon. As the National Review’s Jim Geraghty catalogues in today’s Morning Jolt…

Immediately after Obama delivered his address from the Oval Office about the efforts to contain the Gulf oil spill, Jen Rubin sent me an e-mail that included the highly technical political science term, “Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.” She assesses: “Frankly, Obama was a crashing bore. He’s been that way for awhile, but at moments like this when you know what he is going to say (‘Bad BP!’ ‘Pass Cap-and-trade!’) he is especially so. And he can never pass up the chance to pass the buck. He describes the difficulties with the Minerals Management Services as if someone else was president for over a year and as if this is the fault of “deregulators” rather than a massive bureaucracy without accountability. . . . Obama spoke about ‘shrimpers and fishermen’ and ’empty restaurants’ but neither his voice or demeanor betrayed any sense of emotion. He remains cool and distant — cataloguing suffering but reflecting none of it.”

RealClearPolitics catalogues Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and Howard Fineman — about as pro-Obama a trio as you could assemble on one television panel — sounding like . . . well, like any of us: “It was a great speech if you were on another planet for the last 57 days. . . . Nothing specific at all was said. . . . Where was the ‘how’ in this speech, when the nation was crying out for ‘how’? There wasn’t any specificity to it. . . . It’s startling to hear this. . . . Why does he keep telling us that the Secretary of Energy has a Nobel Prize? It’s not important now. . . . Can’t we go any quicker here, than to name a commission?” They also worried that his assessment of how quickly they could cap the leak was wildly optimistic.

Laura Ingraham is left yawning: “One of the worst speeches ever . . . another day, another special commission.”

Stephen Green is left supremely underwhelmed: “There wasn’t even enough meat to make proper fun of. . . . I keep waiting for somebody else to come on TV, maybe a cabinet member, to read the real speech, the one that tells us . . . I dunno . . . stuff. Seriously, sorority girls have done the Walk of Shame home from frat parties feeling more satisfied.”

Erick Erickson leaves no metaphor unturned, calling it “the most depressing Oval Office speech since Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech. He didn’t just embrace defeat, he wore it on his suit as a substitute for an argyle sweater. He tried to sound upbeat in the way a cop in a movie might sound when his partner lay mortally wounded and the cop needs to get the partner’s wife to the hospital without letting her know her husband is dying. It was a false optimism with Barack Obama distracting Americans in a game of three card monte.”

Charles Krauthammer, on Fox News: “He looked sincere for most of it. He’ll get a point or two for a day or two, and then the story will be the spill-cam, and not his speech.”

Within Frank Luntz’s focus group, a few liked it, but most felt it was about 50 days late.

With that as a backdrop, we offer our take on the speech…

Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al Qaeda wherever it exists. And tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.

On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about forty miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.

Because there has never been a leak of this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge – a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

Every time either Obama or another of his minions mentions Steven Chu’s name, they spout that he won a Nobel Prize. Paul Krugman, Al Gore and Yasser Arafat have won Nobel Prizes. For Pete’s sake OBAMA won a Nobel Prize. Winning a Nobel Prize means spit. What Obama isn’t telling the American people – and particularly not in last night’s speech, is that Steven Chu wants gas prices in America to be what they are in Europe, which means he’s about as qualified to be Secretary of Energy in the United States as Gore or Krugman or Arafat are.

As a result of these efforts, we have directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. In the coming days and weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely.

BP wasn’t going to mobilize that equipment and technology anyway? Did Steven Chu invent the containment cap they’re using now? If so, what else did he invent? Top hat? Top kill? Those won’t earn him another Nobel Prize. And if the Obama administration is the brain power behind BP’s endless parade of solutions to cap the well, how come Steven Chu hasn’t suggested using tankers and siphons the way Saudi Aramco did in 1993 to clean up a spill even bigger than this one?

Or is it that just four paragraphs into this speech Obama is already trying to take credit for something he had absolutely nothing to do with and probably hindered rather than helped?

Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.

But make no mistake: we will fight this spill 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’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.

Really? Then why did you turn down the Dutch when they offered to help? And one thing necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover would be to make the Obamoratorium go away, which he doesn’t seem to want to do.

Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.

First, the cleanup. From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation’s history – an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost forty years of experience responding to disasters. We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and cleanup the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf. And I have authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, clean beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims – and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.

Can’t speak for other states here, but Obama certainly wasn’t the proactive guy in mobilizing the Louisiana National Guard. That was Bobby Jindal. If anything, Obama was slow to authorize its deployment. As for Thad Allen, reviews of his performance to date have been spotty at best – and virtually nobody thinks the command structure Obama has put together to deal with this mess is any good; in fact, Jindal is now executing his own plans on sand berms well ahead of getting federal approval or checks from BP, and Okaloosa County in Florida has told the feds to pound sand after repeated bad experiences with red tape. 

Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming, and other collection methods. Over five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil. We have approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we are working with Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines.

Unbelievable that Obama would take credit for barrier islands and creative approaches. His administration has been a complete hindrance from the start on all of it.

Going back to the beginning of his presidency, there was a hostage standoff between the Navy and Somali pirates who had taken control of the Maersk Alabama, and specifically the ship’s lifeboat. Four of the pirates held the ship’s captain, and American snipers had beads on them. For three days nothing happened until the Navy finally took the pirates down and saved the captain, who had jumped into the water. There was a good deal of talk after Obama jumped in and took credit for the successful operation that the commander on site had taken a very liberal interpretation of orders he was given not to resolve the standoff with violence in order to do just that. Since it went well, Obama was a big booster. If it hadn’t, somebody’s career and/or freedom wouldn’t have been worth a plugged nickel.

The Maersk Alabama came to mind when we saw him talking about the barrier islands.

As the clean up continues, we will offer whatever additional resources and assistance our coastal states may need. Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip. So if something isn’t working, we want to hear about it. If there are problems in the operation, we will fix them.

But we have to recognize that despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife. And sadly, no matter how effective our response becomes, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done. That’s why the second thing we’re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast.

It’s not Jimmy Carter’s “malaise speech” yet, but he’s just warming up.

You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water. That living is now in jeopardy. I’ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don’t know how they’re going to support their families this year. I’ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers – even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected. I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists will start to come back. The sadness and anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.

I refuse to let that happen. Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to 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. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party.

Several things here. First, Obama has no legal authority to direct Tony Hayward to put company funds in escrow to pay claims. Hayward might agree to do that, and it might be worth his while to do so if a third party can be agreed to and in doing so he can cut a deal to limit BP’s liability, thus washing his hands of the claims business, but it’s hardly that simple. BP is sloppy, but they’re not stupid; if they give Obama the claims process and he mucks it up like he’s done with virtually everything else since he’s been in office, BP might still be liable. Hayward is going to know better than to put his head in this lion’s mouth. Second, BP’s claims-paying might be slow, and we want to see it handled better, but the only comparison one can make is to FEMA’s performance after Katrina – and in two months BP has paid, it says, 25,000 claims worth $63 million. Surely that’s a drop in the bucket, but FEMA took years to get people paid. We don’t need another FEMA response or Road Home program; one experience like that was enough. Push BP to get the claims paid faster, but having Obama or some left-wing designee under his thumb running claims payment down here is the last thing we want.

Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short-term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that has already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats. And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.

Here comes the justification for the Obamoratorium.

I make that commitment tonight. Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, a former governor of Mississippi, and a son of the Gulf, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.

BP isn’t going to pay for the effects of the Obamoratorium. They don’t have the money to offset that damage. And asking them to do that will bankrupt them before they can pay out for all the legitimate damages they caused from the spill. The company’s stock is already down the tubes, which has millions of Brits sweating their savings; and if BP goes under, Obama can forget about ever getting cooperation from Great Britain on any substantive international issue again for as long as he’s president.

The third part of our response plan is the steps we’re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again. A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe – that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken.

That was obviously not the case on the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why. The American people deserve to know why. The families I met with last week who lost their loved ones in the explosion – these families deserve to know why. And so I have established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place. Already, I have issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue. And while I urge the Commission to complete its work as quickly as possible, I expect them to do that work thoroughly and impartially.

As the T-P noted, Obama has staffed that commission with global-warming nuts, enviroweenies and others who have no idea how oil wells work; they just know that drilling is bad. And the Obamoratorium already came after Obama and his Interior Secretary Ken “All Hat” Salazar baited-and-switched another study group which expressly recommended against such a drilling ban. Thorough and impartial? Think Kangaroo Court.

One place we have already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service. Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility – a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves. At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.

When Ken Salazar became my Secretary of the Interior, one of his very first acts was to clean up the worst of the corruption at this agency. But it’s now clear that the problems there ran much deeper, and the pace of reform was just too slow. And so Secretary Salazar and I are bringing in new leadership at the agency – Michael Bromwich, who was a tough federal prosecutor and Inspector General. His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog – not its partner.

Michael Bromwich has absolutely no experience with the oil business at all. He has no idea what he’s doing and it will take months for him to figure it out. In that respect he’s exactly like Liz Birnbaum, who was MMS’ previous head that Salazar unceremoniously dumped last month. The fact is, for all the ginned-up narrative about MMS’ corruption and coziness, which is just an elegant way for Obama to attempt to blame the Deepwater Horizon disaster on Bush, for eight years with thousands of rigs in operation in the Gulf we never had a spill. In fact, safety incidents and well blowouts became steadily more infrequent during that time, and MMS had issued Deepwater Horizon and BP a good many citations for safety violations. It was after Obama was inaugurated, and after BP had funded his campaign to the tune of $70,000, that MMS was giving safety awards. And under Bush’s MMS, Shell had the lease on the Mississippi Canyon Block 252 prospect, knew there was oil there and gave up the lease – a clear indication that they chose not to gamble on a difficult rock formation for safety reasons. Obama’s MMS approved the worst safety violator in the business for that lease and then approved a well design and drilling plan from that violator – and then gave safety waivers for their operation of the rig.

So for him to say “Imma clean house and run the Bushie crooks outta MMS” is a load of crap. Democrats like to say that Republicans hate regulation and because of that they intentionally do a slack job of it, but in this case it might be closer to the truth to say that because Obama and his people can’t stand the oil business and don’t have a clue how it works they lack the skill to effectively guarantee it runs the way it should.

One of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20% of the world’s oil, but have less than 2% of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean – because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

That is pure mendacity. We’re not out of places to drill at all. We have the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts where we can drill in shallow water; in some places we can even drill on land and then use horizontal drilling to access the outer continental shelf. We have ANWR, which is a gargantuan oil find. We have the Chukchi Sea in Alaska, which is a shallow-water field Shell has put $150 million into prospecting (and as of now that investment is flushed thanks to Obama). Obama shows himself to be a liar, and a bad one, in making such a blatantly false claim. 

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

China? China, who builds a coal-fired power plant every two weeks? China, who’s the world’s largest polluter? Another blatant lie. He’s right about sending a billion bucks a day overseas for foreign oil, though, which is why the Obamoratorium is such an uncommonly stupid policy.

We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry. As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels. Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient. Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries.

Solar panels and green windows. He wants to tube the oil and gas business for solar panels and green windows. How did this charlatan get elected president? What simpletons voted for this man?

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us. As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs – but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment. And only if we rally together and act as one nation – workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.

This is what Spain tried to do, and they destroyed 2.2 jobs for every “good, middle-class job” they created with their energy-from-pixie-dust initiative. Spain has 20 percent unemployment, a figure which will look attractive here in Louisiana by the time Obama is finished with us.

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

He has absolutely zero solutions, you’ll notice. He offers no specifics on how to transition away from oil – because, and this would be a surprise to him, there are lots of smart folks in the energy business who have been looking around for a profitable way to deliver energy and found that NOTHING WORKS AS WELL AS FOSSIL FUELS. Obama acts as though he thinks that just by being president he can usher in some Golden Age whereby a magic new form of energy will appear; by now he should realize that his presence in the White House hasn’t altered economic or geopolitical reality and energy is no different.

So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party – as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development – and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

Uhhh, maybe because the government regulates and taxes the oil business out the wazoo while it leaves the computer business alone? This isn’t rocket science; oil companies make a four percent profit margin and computer companies make a 15 percent margin. The more money you make, the more you can put into R&D. That’s basic economics, but of course Obama is the most ignorant president on that subject we’ve ever had; he can’t be expected to understand such arcane concepts. Economics is racist, after all.

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, 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.

No, we don’t know we’ll get there. Knowing we’ll get there isn’t enough. It’s knowing HOW to get there which allows us to get there. And for the guy who essentially destroyed the space program to prattle on about putting a man on the moon is pretty rich.

It is a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.

Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region’s fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It’s called “The Blessing of the Fleet,” and today it’s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea – some for weeks at a time.

No. You. Didn’t.

The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago – at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.

And still, they came and they prayed. For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,” a blessing that’s granted “…even in the midst of the storm.”

We feel dirty that this guy is using the Blessing of the Fleet. Maybe he should come to one of those ceremonies and see what the locals think of him.

The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through – what has always seen us through – is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it. Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Call us crazy, but Obama is the storm.



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