Obama’s Oval Office address: A missed opportunity

President Obama's speech failed to address the core question at issue in BP's handling of the Gulf oil spill -- that executives of powerful corporations are pursuing profits in ways that threaten the country.

By , Guest blogger

  • close
    President Barack Obama speaks during a televised address from the Oval Office in the White House on Tuesday, June 15. Dedicating new urgency to the Gulf oil spill, Obama accused BP of "recklessness" in the first Oval Office address of his presidency, but were his words strong enough?
    View Caption

The man who electrified the nation with his speech at the Democratic National Convention of 2004 put it to sleep tonight. President Obama’s address to the nation from the Oval Office was, to be frank, vapid. If you watched with the sound off you might have thought he was giving a lecture on the history of the Interstate Highway System. He didn’t have to be angry but he had at least to show passion and conviction. It is, after all, the worst environmental crisis in the history of the nation.

With the sound on, his words hung in the air with all the force of a fundraiser for your local public access TV station. Everything seemed to be in the passive tense. He had authorized deepwater drilling because he “was assured” it was safe. But who assured him? How does he feel about being so brazenly misled? He said he wanted to “understand” why that was mistaken. Understand? He’s the President of the United States and it was a major decision. Isn’t he determined to find out how his advisors could have been so terribly wrong?

Tomorrow he’s “informing” the president of BP of BP’s financial obligations. “Informing” is what you do when you phone the newspaper to tell them it wasn’t delivered today. Why not “directing” or “ordering?”

Recommended: Barack Obama: How well do you know America's 44th president?

The President distinguished what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico from a tornado or hurricane because they are over quickly while the leak is an ongoing crisis, lasting many weeks and perhaps months more. He likened it to an “epidemic.” But the real difference has nothing to do with time. Tornadoes and hurricanes are natural disasters. Epidemics occur because germs mutate and spread. The spill occurred because of the recklessness and ruthlessness of a giant oil company in pursuit of profit.

And what has the nation learned from all this? The same lesson we’ve known for decades, according to the President. We must end our dependence on oil. But if we’ve known this for decades, why haven’t we done anything about it? The President endorsed the cap-and-trade bill that emerged from the House (without calling it cap-and-trade) but didn’t call for the only thing that may actually work: a tax on carbon.

I’m a fan of Barack Obama. I campaigned for him and I believe in him. I think he has a first-class temperament. I have been deeply moved and startled by his ability to speak about the nation’s most intractable problems. But he failed tonight to rise to the occasion. Is it because he’s not getting good advice, or because he’s psychologically incapable of expressing the moral outrage the nation feels?

Or is it something deeper? Whether it’s Wall Street or health insurers or oil companies, we are approaching a turning point. The top executives of powerful corporations are pursuing profits in ways that menace the nation. We have not seen the likes not since the late nineteenth century when the “robber barons” of finance, oil, and the giant trusts ran roughshod over America. Now, as then, they are using their wealth and influence to buy off legislators and intimidate the regions that depend on them for jobs. Now, as then, they are threatening the safety and security of our people.

This is not to impugn the integrity of all business leaders or to suggest that private enterprise is inherently evil or dangerous. It is merely to state a fact that more and more Americans are beginning to know in their bones.

Our President must tell is like it is — not with rancor but with the passion and conviction of a leader who recognizes what is happening and rallies the nation behind him.

------------------------------

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on www.robertreich.org.

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

eZ debug

Clear cache:

Quick settings:

Timing: Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Script start
Timing: Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Module start 'content'
Warning: eZDebug::accumulatorStop Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Accumulator 'Search' does not exist, run eZDebug::accumulatorStart first
Warning: eZDebug::accumulatorStop Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Accumulator 'Search' does not exist, run eZDebug::accumulatorStart first
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
iconv(): Detected an illegal character in input string in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/wrap_operator/autoloads/WrapOperator.php on line 109
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 158
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 175
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 158
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: path in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezwebin/autoloads/ezpagedata.php on line 175
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_remote_id_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/csm_base/classes/CSMFunctionCollection.php on line 1028
Warning: eZTemplate:def @ extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/content/datatype/view/ezbyline.tpl:10[1] Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Variable 'story_source' is already defined.
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_remote_id_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/csm_base/classes/CSMFunctionCollection.php on line 1028
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_remote_id_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/csm_base/classes/CSMFunctionCollection.php on line 1028
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_class_identifier_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/ezfind/classes/ezfindresultnode.php on line 111
Notice: PHP: E_NOTICE Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Undefined index: meta_remote_id_ms in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/csm_base/classes/CSMFunctionCollection.php on line 1028
Timing: Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Module end 'content'
Timing: Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Before parse_includes
Strict: PHP: E_STRICT Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Non-static method MugoViewExtras::get_view_extras() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/mugo_view_extras/autoloads/template_operators.php on line 37
Warning: eZTemplate:def @ extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/extra/archive.tpl:21[1] Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
Variable 'view_extra_node' is already defined.
Timing: Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
After parse_includes
Timing: Jul 09 2014 12:40:31
End

Timing points:

CheckpointElapsedRel. ElapsedMemoryRel. Memory
Script start 0.0000 sec0.0138 sec 1,286.6797 KB1,162.2656 KB
Module start 'content' 0.0138 sec0.8083 sec 2,448.9453 KB11,103.6875 KB
Module end 'content' 0.8222 sec0.0133 sec 13,552.6328 KB392.9219 KB
Before parse_includes 0.8355 sec0.0453 sec 13,945.5547 KB280.0703 KB
After parse_includes 0.8807 sec0.0010 sec 14,225.6250 KB-182.6953 KB
End 0.8818 sec  14,042.9297 KB 
Total runtime:0.8890 sec
Peak memory usage:16,519.5547 KB

Time accumulators:

 Accumulator Elapsed Percent Count Average
ini_load
Load cache0.0074 sec0.8253%360.0002 sec
Mysql Total
Mysqli_queries0.0967 sec10.8490%1560.0006 sec
Looping result0.0098 sec1.1047%1480.0001 sec
Template Total0.8450 sec 94.8% 7 0.1207 sec
Template load0.0070 sec0.7828%70.0010 sec
Template processing0.8377 sec93.9918%70.1197 sec
Template load and register function0.0002 sec0.0238%40.0001 sec
states
state_id_array0.0033 sec0.3711%80.0004 sec
state_identifier_array0.0056 sec0.6255%110.0005 sec
override
Cache load0.0062 sec0.7007%660.0001 sec
eZ Find
MoreLikeThis0.0000 sec0.0000%00.0000 sec
Query build0.0054 sec0.6031%10.0054 sec
Engine time0.0313 sec3.5145%10.0313 sec
Search0.2723 sec30.5529%20.1361 sec
Class attribute list0.0801 sec8.9864%10.0801 sec
Sytem overhead
Fetch class attribute can translate value0.0008 sec0.0916%20.0004 sec
Fetch class attribute name0.0002 sec0.0218%100.0000 sec
XML
Image XML parsing0.0147 sec1.6491%20.0073 sec
class_abstraction
Instantiating content class attribute0.0001 sec0.0080%100.0000 sec
General
String conversion0.0000 sec0.0018%30.0000 sec
dbfile0.0115 sec1.2919%420.0003 sec
View Extra building0.0104 sec1.1710%40.0026 sec
Total script time:0.8912 sec

CSS/JS files loaded with "ezjscPacker" during request:

CacheTypePacklevelSourceFiles
01a980f93dc967c6e39d52a11ae2108b_1404899611_all.cssCSS3extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/normalize.css
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/html5b.css
design/standard/stylesheets/debug.css
extension/ezwt/design/standard/stylesheets/websitetoolbar.css
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/jquery-ui-1.10.3.custom.min.css
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/stylesheets/desktop.css
ede0a88fd146f1a095d27fb22227d0e5_1398846822.jsJS2extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/modernizr.js
extension/csm_base/design/standard/javascript/jquery-1.10.2.min.js
1650da1ba852ac5f9af81af07e8fa105_1404899611.jsJS2extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery-ui-1.10.4.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/json2.js
extension/csm_base/design/standard/javascript/jquery.cookie.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery.mobile.custom.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.arthole.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.sticky.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.csmstory.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.right_column.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.csmstory_editorspickdialog.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.sailthru_signup.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.jcarousel.min.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.history.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.mainNav.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.gallery.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/plugins/jquery.staffdialog.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jQuery.rollChildren.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/pubService_extended.js
extension/csm_base/design/standard/javascript/csm/csmNew.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery.quiz.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/jquery.spectrumQuiz.js
extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/javascript/global.js

Templates used to render the page:

UsageRequested templateTemplateTemplate loadedEditOverride
1node/view/full.tplfull/article.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/full/article.tplEdit templateOverride template
12content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/paragraph.tpl<No override>extension/ezwebin/design/ezwebin/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/paragraph.tplEdit templateOverride template
2content/datatype/view/ezimage.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/content/datatype/view/ezimage.tplEdit templateOverride template
12content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/link.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/link.tplEdit templateOverride template
2content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/strong.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/strong.tplEdit templateOverride template
2content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/emphasize.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltags/emphasize.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezstring.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezstring.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezxmltext.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/ezxmltext.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezbyline.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/content/datatype/view/ezbyline.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezobjectrelationlist.tplcontent/datatype/view/story_images.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/story_images.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/eztext.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/content/datatype/view/eztext.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezstring.tplcontent/datatype/view/image_credit.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/image_credit.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezxmltext.tplcontent/datatype/view/story_info_box.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/story_info_box.tplEdit templateOverride template
1content/datatype/view/ezmatrix.tplcontent/datatype/view/ezmatrix_article_related_external_links.tplextension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/content/datatype/view/ezmatrix_article_related_external_links.tplEdit templateOverride template
1pagelayout.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/pagelayout.tplEdit templateOverride template
1modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tpl<No override>extension/mugo_view_extras/design/standard/templates/modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tplEdit templateOverride template
1setup/debug_toolbar.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/setup/debug_toolbar.tplEdit templateOverride template
 Number of times templates used: 42
 Number of unique templates used: 17
 Time used to render template usage: 0.0003 secs