Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Obama speech uses epidemic, not "war" and the 'hawks' balk

Obama, as in President Barrack Obama, took seventeen minutes tonight to sketch some lines on a canvas about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in his speech to the nation from the Oval Office. And then he was followed on MSNBC by Democratic apologists, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann who claimed "no specifics" and no "target" and no aim to the address.
An FDR, at the time of Pearl Harbour, with the specific numbers of planes and ships and soldiers and guns and bullets...is/was their model for the speech. And "WAR" was/is their metaphor. And there is no doubt that a massive intervention is being carried out, with more planned.
Obama, on the other hand, used the metaphor of an "epidemic" which continues to spew into the waters, and onto the shorelines around the Gulf. Changing the U.S. culture from that of demanding a "military general to be in charge" to one of a team of untried experts in unchartered "waters" if you will pardon the pun, is no little task.
In fact, Obama is on target to use 'epidemic' and not war: the U.S. is already engaged, sadly, in two military combat operations, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and putting a third "war" on the table, and more importantly on top of the spiralling debt and deficit is unrealistic, and more than the country can bear. An 'epidemic' has the capacity to keep on keeping on, and the measures, both strategy and tactics available for intervention are limited, untried and extremely difficult to execute, some one mile under the sea's surface.
Urgency is certainly the order of the day, but the pundits, and this time sadly from his own political constituency, seem to have moved from urgency to "desperation" verging on panic. Those are not the qualities of a responsible leader, in this multiple-crisis political environment. And, whatever else his critics may say about him, President Obama is demonstrating an amazing capacity for "grace under fire," that Hemingway touchstone of the hero, and  Americans and citizens of the world can be thankful it is he who is sitting in the Oval Office, and not either his predecessor, nor his opponent in the 2008 election, John McCain.
Real strength is not demonstrated only through a Patton or a MacArthur; real strength is demonstrated by tough negotiations, by persistent attention to the fine print, and not always in public, and by helping to create a cultural climate of optimism, hope and trust.
And in that more important, if less immediate, goal, he succeeded in his seventeen minutes of national air time.
24 hours later:
A $20 billion commitment from unpaid dividends has been made by BP to fund the clean-up over the next four years, and that number is not "capped" according to the White House. Additionally, BP has committed another $100 million to offset the damages to the incomes of those whose livelihoods have been removed by the suspension of deep-water drilling for oil.
Even Robert Reich, and Keith Olbermann, both harsh critics of the speech, were eating a little crow, at least in their tone, appearing together on Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. Both are hoping for a deft political move that would see the Environment Bill, already passed by the House of Representatives brought swiftly to the Senate for a vote, to be followed by an introduction of "cap and trade" (effectively a carbon tax) when the bill goes to "conference" when both bills are reconciled.
Presidential muscle that did not appear to the pundits, almost universally, in the speech, has magically appeared from the meeting with BP executives...Imagine a president who is not addicted to the convention of self-serving, by making the speech after the BP commitment so that he could bask in the glory, and letting BP proudly make the announcement themsevles, since it is, after all, their money and commitment.
Maybe, just maybe, Olbermann got it right when he allowed, "This may by one of the country's 100 most intelligent people who sits in the Oval Office!" And his capacity to see farther than the next news cycle far outstrips his most unbalanced critics.

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