President Obama gave his first Oval Office address to the nation Tuesday, laying out in 18 minutes what the federal government is doing, will do, and should do to tackle BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf, as well as our larger "addiction to oil." As The New York Times put it, the speech was also a declaration of war against "oil industry lobbyists and corrupt regulators, foreign energy suppliers and conservative policy makers...[and] his own powerlessness as a president castigated for failing to stop the nation’s worst-ever oil spill." Did he persuasively make his case and "turn disaster into opportunity"? (Watch an AP report about Obama's new "battle plan")
Where's the chief? "Obama certainly offered some Churchillian, take-charge rhetoric," says Daniel Gross in Slate, but we need a CEO, not a statesman, and anyone who "expected Obama to go Jack Welch on BP came away disappointed." Where were the "specific, short-terms steps," much less the hard sells like a carbon tax? It's enough to make you miss "at least the platonic ideal of the presidency of George W. Bush."
"BP — Blah Performance"
Obama hit the mark: The "instant-pundit" critics "must have been watching a different speech than I was," says Mark Murray at MSNBC's First Read. Obama's goal was to show that his administration is doing everything humanly possible to fight the spill, ensure Gulf residents get reimbursed, and "hold BP's feet to the fire." And "in a strong, resolute and, yes, optimistic tone, he hit on all three."
"Quick reaction to tonight's speech"
This "small speech" did nothing: "Oval addresses are best reserved for wars and resignations," says Daniel Foster in National Review, not Obama's "populist platitudes about 'making BP pay'" or his "cheerleading" for an "ill-advised cap-and-trade scheme" and clean-energy initiatives he doesn't even have the votes to enact. If he wanted a worthy message, how about: "Yes we can... nuke the spill"?
"A small speech from a big office"
Obama showed a "glimmer of leadership": Despite "all the idiotic advice President Obama has gotten" about the spill, says David Ignatius in The Washington Post, his speech "had it about right: Call to arms. Three-point plan. End our energy addiction. God bless America." Is Obama tough enough to tackle our energy problem? Time will tell, but "I liked him better Tuesday night than I have in a while — tired, beat-up politically, but not playing to the crowd with easy put-downs of BP" or Big Oil.
"A glimmer of leadership in Obama's Oval Office speech"
SEE MORE OF THE WEEK'S COVERAGE OF THE BP OIL SPILL:
• BP's 8 dumbest mistakes
• Punishing BP: 6 brutal proposals
• BP oil spill: 9 strange facts