All eyes are on President Obama tonight, as he makes a pivotal address to the nation about the worst ecological disaster in U.S. history — the BP oil spill. Obama, fresh off a two-day visit to the oil-soaked Gulf Coast, is delivering the politically crucial speech from the Oval Office as his administration faces broad criticism for its response to the disaster. He's expected to touch on some of the complaints, as well as BP's responsibility, and what happens now. What does Obama need to say to take political control of the spreading disaster? (Watch Obama promise a "return to normal" during his trip South this week.) Five pundits weigh in:
Go on the offense: The BP oil disaster has put Obama on defense, says Eliot Spitzer in Slate. Tonight, he needs to "change the terms of debate." Right now, "we're mired in an ugly moment when failure dominates the American psyche... The president must wrest back his presidency by presenting us with an uplifting — and persuasive — vision of transformation." That means "Yes we can" energy policies, like a carbon tax and jobs-creating green infrastructure projects.
Channel JFK: Wonky solutions will only get Obama so far, says Joe Scarborough on MSNBC, via The Huffington Post. What he needs to do is make the equivalent of John F. Kennedy's "end of the decade" moon speech: "By the end of a decade, America will break its dependence on foreign oil... By the end of the decade, we will be positioned to dominate the world in energy for the next century. We will do it because we must do it."
Lift the drilling moratorium: This is Obama's last chance to "hit the reset button," says James Carville on "Good Morning America," via Mediaite. "People are very anxious" and will be tuning in, and Obama has to be straight with them: How much oil is gushing into the Gulf, how he'll save the wetlands, and how soon, with "stringent regulation," he'll reopen the Gulf to drilling. "The moratorium is wrecking the economy down here... You take fishing and you take petroleum away down here and you don’t have a whole lot left."
Acknowledge his limits: Even Obama's Small Government critics want him to say he'll fix this, says Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post. But the truth is "there is absolutely nothing that the American president can do about it." Obama will just "look weak" if he continues to "pretend he's capable of controlling" the situation when he's not. He needs to level with America, and admit that our fate is in the hands of BP and its experts.
Vow to make BP pay: Obama should "manage public expectations for a battle that will likely drag on for months," not days, says Bryan Walsh in Time. But he isn't "helpless." The big thing he needs to announce is that he'll "force BP to create an escrow account, potentially worth billions, to compensate businesses and individuals harmed by the oil spill." BP has the technical expertise to stop the spill, but it's "unjust" that it holds the purse strings, too.