Obama’s First Oval Office Speech a ‘Flop’
Headline: “Obama promises a brighter day. (Details to come.)”Nobody is more impressed than I am in the president’s ability to inspire. But I am not sure his speech was all that inspirational.Maybe the location was wrong. Maybe using the Oval Office – and it was the first time the president has used it for a speech – upped the ante too much. Maybe we expected too much.Like details.
Olbermann: “It was a great speech if you were on another planet for the last 57 days.”
Matthews compared Obama to Carter.
Olbermann: “Nothing specific at all was said.”
Matthews: “No direction.”
Howard Fineman: “He wasn’t specific enough.”
Olbermann: “I don’t think he aimed low, I don’t think he aimed at all. It’s startling.”
Howard Fineman: Obama should be acting like a “commander-in-chief.”
Matthews: Ludicrous that he keeps saying [Secretary of Energy] Chu has a Nobel prize. “I’ll barf if he does it one more time.”
Matthews: “A lot of meritocracy, a lot of blue ribbon talk.”
Matthews: “I don’t sense executive command.”
Calvin Woodward of AP does a fact check, and finds “blanks.”
Once more on Tuesday night, we were back to back-against-the-wall time. The president went for his fourth-quarter, Michael Jordan, down-to-the-wire, thrill shot in the Oval Office, his first such dramatic address to a nation sick about the slick.You know the president is drowning – in oil this time – when he uses the Oval Office. And do words really matter when the picture of oil gushing out of the well continues to fill the screen?
W. and Dick Cheney were too headlong, jumping off crazy cliffs and dragging the country – and the world – with them. President Obama is the opposite, often too hesitant to take the obvious action. He seems unable to muster the adrenalin necessary to go full bore until the crowd has waited and wailed and almost given up on him, but it’s a nerve-racking way to campaign and govern.“On the one hand, you have BP, which sees a risky hole in the ground a couple miles under the sea surface and thinks if we take more risk, and cut some corners, we make millions more. In taking on more risk, they’re gambling with more than money,” said Richard Wolffe, an Obama biographer. “On the other hand, you have Obama, who is ambivalent about risk. What he does late is to embrace risk, like running for president, trebling troops in Afghanistan and health care. But in deferring the risk, he’s gambling with his authority and political capital.”By trying too hard to keep control, he ends up losing control.
There is one line I wish he hadn’t used. After a perfectly noble declaration that “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,” Obama added: “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.” I don’t think it was a moment to say that we don’t know “exactly what that looks like” when it comes to the future. Most people want the president to give the future a bit more definition.
Rolling out the military metaphors–“battle plan” and “siege” and “fight”– he again embraced the philosophy of his resident thinker, Rahm Emanuel, that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.It was an unpersuasive performance. It lacked the essential energy and mastery of detail that would show the president focused like a laser on the crisis.Instead, it caught him looking starry-eyed into the wild blue yonder.Earth to president: Come on down. He’s been hammered relentlessly for not being engaged, but he’s still not into the details of the prevention and cleanup.He’s got a czar, a commission and a dream, therefore he is. And, oh, he’s got BP to kick around and milk like a fat cow.His idea to tax all forms of carbon already failed once as the public gagged on his splurge in deficit spending.Even Democratic senators and governors fear the impact it would have on energy prices and manufacturing jobs in coal and oil states.But the idea is in play, repackaged as Obama’s answer to the Gulf spill.
Eh.I was underwhelmed by President Obama’s first Oval Office speech, as I expected to be. From the moment he began, hands folded on his desk like a well-behaved student, the imagery and energy was off, inadequate to the visual, horror-movie scope of the Gulf oil disaster.
On the upside for Obama, Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman from the Florida panhandle, expressed admiration this morning on MSNBC for the President’s speech yesterday in Pensacola, and for his Oval Office effort. That’s one, and Paul Begala, Democrat pit bull, thought it was a great