Talking Points

The following are– in my opinion– the most important points and quotations from President Obama’s Oval Office Speech on the Gulf Spill:

“Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced…we have to recognize that despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife.”
  • One vital aspect of cleaning up this spill– and moving forward with suitable policies– is admitting that something has gone wrong and that not everything is in the hands of the federal government.
  • In short, instead of setting an unreasonably high standard which he and his proxies cannot uphold, President Obama is being pragmatic and acknowledging the limitations that he suffers from on this issue.
“Tonight, I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward.”
  • Simple and to-the-point. He’s recognized what he can’t do, now he’s telling us what he can and will do.

“These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, they’re ready to help clean the beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims — and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.”

  • Now, Obama is exerting his presidential force. He’s saying that he’s provided the people of the Gulf Coast a source of aid, and it’s not something that they’re paying extra taxes for: it’s the troops.
  • In essence, he’s giving the governors of the Gulf states a gift, and it’s up to them to decide whether or not to use it. He cannot be blamed, he’s saying, for not supplying the states with enough assistance.
“In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.”
  • This is probably the most important step in moving forward. All eyes have turned to the federal government and its lack of regulation of Big Oil. BP abused safety policies before the spill and hid economic facts afterward.
  • So, Obama is saying that BP will be responsible for paying all costs resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, and that, in order to make sure that everyone is compensated appropriately, BP will not be in charge of the monetary distribution.
  • This is important in terms of both Obama’s public image and Gulf Coast citizens’ well-being.
“That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.”
  • Obama’s looking to the future instead of getting caught up in the momentary issue.
  • He’s creating a “long-term Gulf Reservation Plan” to not only clean up the spill, but also looking to get back jobs, a healthy environment, and prevent this from happening again.
(Referring to the moratorium:) “I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue.”
  • This is the responsible and respectable thing to do. He’s acknowledging that in order to move forward, he must look back. He’s avoiding any impetuous behavior.
  • Also, this is a good pushing-off point for a campaign that promotes alternative energy sources and weans this country off of oil from offshore drilling.
“(We need) to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog — not its partner.”
  • He’s acknowledging the importance of government regulation.
  • E.g. Just as a lack of regulation caused the housing market to collapse (the mortgage crisis), so too was a lack of regulation a key ingredient in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon.


2 thoughts on “Talking Points

  1. It’s interesting, but here’s my interpretation of everything that you said:
    Quote 1: You’re reading too much into it. It’s just a correct stamement. He has very few limitations, he’s just depending too much on BP. It’s unacceptable to say that Pres Obama is being “pragmatic” when it took him longer to get to Louisiana than ex-Pres Bush with Katrina.
    Quote 2: Your first point is correct. On your second point, it’s not about giving a gift, it’s about asking the governors, who control a force that he does not (their respective coast guards), to be used for a more effective cleanup.
    Quote 3: While it’s good that the money is being put into a fund, here are some important things missing: what happens if the fund runs out? if there’s a surplus? how are you determining who the “3rd party” is? how does a person get access to these funds? what counts as a legitimate claim?
    Quote 4: This is about regulation to prevent it in the future. He’s not looking to get back jobs, though, that’ll happen on its own once the spill is cleaned up, he’s looking to be able to put the credit on government.
    Quote 5: This is about what happened with this specific oil rig, and he is wrong. This rig blew up because of negligence, not the safety of offshore drilling as a whole. Restrictions on testing made this a more risky venture than it had to be, and it was caused by (you guessed it) government-place restrictions.
    Quote 6: Once again, it is not a matter of not enough regulation but of ineffective enforcement. What matters is light but enforced regulation. BP did not pay for problems because they had the green light, an incentive not to, a justification and rationalization. If there is no watchdog to say it’s OK, they have to go on their own gut, which would probably have been to prevent this. Also, government regulation actually caused the mortgage crisis. Government underwriting made otherwise unprofitable ventures profitable in an attempt to “bring mortgages to those that the banks turn away”.
    Mind you, BP is horrid and incompetent. They should be fired and replaced by someone more competent to fix the spill, and they have an incentive to wait. They’re lawyers are probably telling them to wait so that the liability is lifted off of them and put onto Deepwater Horizon or anyone else.

  2. Great summary of some highlights of his address. Thanks.

    However, whatever the merit of these individual points, I was disappointed in the President. This was an opportunity to step back and take on some larger issues, to place the spill in context and inspire confidence and even restore hope. Instead, he talked about the spill as if people had never heard of it, then rattled off some assurances that things would happen, though they would take a long time.

    Making it an Oval Office address was a poor choice. It made Obama seem even more lukewarm, distant and impotent than he already appears. He should have delivered this to a town hall full of folks in Louisiana. Of course, he didn’t, because they would have heckled and held signs and the whole event would have caused its own problems. In any case, this is not a great way for this great orator to communicate. Where’s the guy who spoke about race in Philadelphia; who rocked a stadium in Denver; who inspired millions on the Mall in DC? At’s as if his power to lead is degrading along with the Gulf’s ecosystem.

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