President Barack Obama delivered his first Oval Office address to the nation tonight and in it he did what many Americans have been asking for. He spoke for the American people, demanded answers, and laid out a plan for the future. Obama said, “We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes.”
After a slow opening few minutes, Obama told America that he will make BP pay, “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.”
The President refuted the claim from the Right that he has been slow to act, “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, they are ready to help clean the 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.”
Obama later mentioned holding BP accountable for destroying the way of life for many in the Gulf, “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.”
He committed to a long term restoration plan for the Gulf, “That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment. 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.”
He talked about the need to for better regulation and transitioned discussing his alternative energy plan, “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.”
The President called on Americans to embrace the moment and move towards clean energy, “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.
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.”
Obama closed by offering hope and optimism, “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.”
I know that some on the Left are already complaining about this address, coughcoughkeitholbermanncoughcough, but here is what Obama accomplished in 17 minutes, he held BP accountable, promised aid for the cleanup and redevelopment for the Gulf, called for stricter regulations, offered a clean energy plan, and closed with a message of hope. The people who are whining about this address are missing the point. The address was designed to demonstrate leadership and show that the White House has a plan. For Heaven’s sake, what were you expecting in less than 20 minutes?
The President did as well as can be expected with an unmanageable crisis. I do wish that the first few minutes would have possessed the same stronger tone as the rest of his address, but the President had to walk that line between executive leadership and taking responsibility for BP’s disaster. The next time you hear anyone on the Left or Right complain about Obama’s response or call this Obama’s Katrina, ask them how many times George H.W. Bush visited Alaska after the Exxon Valdez (0), or how many national addresses he gave on the subject? Answer: (0).
Obama is doing well given the circumstances, but such is the lot of a president. He is not the first president to have a disaster dropped into his lap, and he won’t be the last. What makes Obama different is that he is offering a long term solution for the country to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Barack Obama is showing true presidential leadership even if it means taking a short term political hit which is the mark of a truly special president.
The full transcript of Obama’s address courtesy of Lynn Sweet.