The Campaign Spectator

Talk Is Cheap

In his campaign remarks last night, the President of inaction called for action.

By 6.16.10

When the President gave his first address from the Oval Office Tuesday night, I was surprised the networks weren't running a live feed of the Gulf oil spill in the corner of the screen. 

Not only because they are almost always running that live feed, but because it would be a perfect image of what has been happening for almost 60 days now. Oil has been flowing out of a hole at the bottom of the sea at an astronomical rate, and the President has been talking. Just talking.

Even in his speech Tuesday night, he started by telling the American people what he had directed BP to do. But where is the action?

He said that there are 3,000 oil cleanup workers in four states and 1,000 ships -- but he didn't say that he sent them. He said there are over 17,000 National Guard troops there, but those are the National Guard troops belonging to the Gulf states (of which there are over 50,000 troops) and acting under their governors' leadership. And nonetheless, where are the results of all this effort? Oil is spilling out at higher rates than ever before.

The President used this Oval Office speech to create more theatrics, which has characterized his presidency, when it should be about sound policy and executive action.

President Obama has tried to turn this oil spill into his September 11. Going so far as to analogize this catastrophe to the attack on our country in 2001. His Oval Office speech used war metaphors to talk about the spill and what we must do.

This is not war; this is something that a president should have been able to contain a month ago. And if you couldn't contain it, he should have at least been able to clean up the oil on the surface as it accumulated. It is scary to think we have the strongest military in the world, but we can't even use our ships and equipment to sop up oil.

It is clear that this President was a great candidate; but he is not a great president. In his speech last night he tried to remind the American public of how much they loved him way back when – he was like a toddler trying to regain his mother's approval. "When I was a candidate for this office," the President said -- but how about now, when you are President?

The President, time after time again, tried to become Barack Obama the beloved candidate. He talked about future policy and said that we need a long-term Gulf restoration plan "ASAP." No -- we don't need a long-term plan ASAP, we need to clean up the spill ASAP. Once again, this President is not governing, he is campaigning.

He also emphasized the importance of creating a commission to examine the cause of the spill to once again highlight the finger-pointing he has done from the beginning. Creating this commission should be the subject matter of a speech after the oil is contained. For now, STOP THE SPILL. Then worry about who started it.

The President told the American people that Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar had made cleaning up the corruption in his department a top priority. Then he announced that he and the Secretary are now going to replace management in the corrupt Mineral Management Service. It seems that had it been a top priority, it would have been seen to when the President took office a year and a half ago. Here was again the President was pretending to have a policy – he was campaigning.

The President concluded his speech by talking about future policies. Putting aside the fact that he is once again using this disaster to campaign for his agenda, he said, "The one approach I will not accept is inaction." 

Well, Mr. President, lead by example. Because the only approach to cleaning up the oil spill we have endured is inaction. It's time to stop talking and start leading.

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About the Author

Russ Ferguson is a lawyer and writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.